There is something about the ER—especially the night shift—that thrives on spontaneity.
It's just past 2 a.m. I meet him for the first time in a hallway stretcher—one step past the waiting room and any number of hours before he inherits a bed with privacy. The patient is a 50-something Caucasian man with salt-and-pepper hair, battered glasses, a three-day beard, and an air of frustration. He wants to know why—why the long wait, why he's constantly in pain, and why we can't immediately comply with his request for narcotics.
I start to gather information as we are trained to do. I utter some version of "what brings you into the ER today?" I carry on with more questions, registering each answer on my mental checklist.
"Look, I really don't want to be here right now," he says with defeat.
I tuck away my pen and paper—and with them, my persistence.
"You know, to be honest, I wouldn't mind being at home in my own bed right now either," I offer.