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Unlike a routine visit to the doctor, no one anticipates a trip to the emergency room. The context of such a trip is usually fraught with pain, anxiety, and a healthy fear of the unknown. Those unknown factors include the skills of the emergency room staff, their own level of anxiety and overwork, and how many other patients have visited the ER at the same time.
It’s estimated that 50% of all medical errors occur in the emergency room. Errors can occur as a result of inadequate ER staffing, inadequate staff training, unsanitary ER conditions, failure to properly evaluate a patient, misdiagnosis, delay in diagnosis, failure to properly monitor a patient, and lab errors.
When an emergency room is crowded and understaffed, the combination can be a lethal one for patients. That’s when emergency room medical errors and malpractice occur. These medical errors are preventable. Many of the medical errors in emergency departments can be resolved by administrative corrective action. Other errors can be prevented if the proper medical protocols are followed and adhered to strictly.
Anyone who has had to make a trip to the emergency room has witnessed the signs of an overcrowded and understaffed emergency room. Those signs may have resulted in a devastating medical error.
The signs of a fatal heart attack may have been missed when a patient is sent home and told his symptoms are indigestion. Another person experiences the severe effects of an appendix rupture because the symptoms of acute appendicitis were misdiagnosed. Another patient dies waiting for care because no one bothered to check or monitor her. These are examples of recent news stories. They are real and the patients never made it out of the emergency room because medical staff failed these patients in their duty to provide them an acceptable standard of care. These tragedies all occurred in emergency rooms in the United States.