Multitasking (and why migraine patients wait)

From Scalpel or Sword (a great blog)

At any given moment during the typical shift in the ER, here is what is happening:

There are 10-20 patients in the waiting room. Some have been waiting 6 hours. A couple of them have ankle sprains and were already X-rayed, and their X-rays were already read by the Radiologist as “no bony abnormality, soft tissue swelling.” They would like to leave without being seen. We don’t argue too much.

I’m waiting on a callback from a specialist, and I have two more calls to make after that one. If I paged them all at once, they would all call back at the same time, then two of them would hang up before I was finished talking with the first one. They would be understandably angry when they were repaged, and they would take an hour to call back the second time. So I page them one at a time. As soon as I introduce myself to the next patient I see, the first one will call back…

continues…