Parents, Please Stop Asking Facebook What the ‘Wait Time’ is at Your Local Emergency Room

Parents and Facebook Groups

If you’re a mom with a Facebook account, chances are you’re in a few online groups specific to your region. You know – the ones where you ask which grocery store has baby wipes on sale this week, which pediatrician is taking on new patients and where to get the best ice cream cake in town. IMPORTANT MOM STUFF, and as we all know, the answer to 80% of questions is coconut oil and/or something from DoTerra. That’s science.

I’m a mom, so I’m in several of these groups and I’ll be honest: they’re a mixed bag. Sometimes they’re loaded with judgement, arguments and sanctimommies going at each other like suburban honey badgers of the Internet. But other times, a really incredible community of women come together to encourage one another, support new moms through physical and emotional challenges and to advocate for kindness and human rights. I recently saw a bunch of moms from a local Facebook group get together to attend a local Pride parade and show their support as allies, offering “Free Mom Hugs” to anyone who needed one. That’s something to be proud of (and more than enough reason to put up with dozens of MLM posts).

I’m (mostly) kidding about the MLM stuff – to each their own, right? Just do you, mama – I don’t want to be the jerk who tells you how to live. But – and there’s always a ‘but’, right? – there’s one thing I cannot wrap my head around. It happens ALL THE TIME, and every time I see it, I grumble more intensely.

“MAMAS! Does anyone know what the wait time is like at (insert local hospital)?”

Or even, “My kid is (breathing weird/having an allergic reaction/bleeding from a head wound/unable to stand on their left leg). Does this warrant a trip to the emergency room?”

Ok. Let’s unpack this.

I have two kids who are, shall we say, active? And by active, I mean they are insane tornado children who play hard and dive head first into life (and door frames). My 8-year-old daughter is perpetually covered in scraped knees and bruises, and my six-year-old son has had stitches not once, not twice but THREE times.

So I get it – kids get hurt, some more often than others, and as good parents, we take them to the hospital when the situation is more than we can handle at home. They also get sick with the flu or other ailments that require a trip to the emergency room. Lord knows, some parents have to deal with things much more serious than that. Taking our kids to the ER is, unfortunately, a pretty standard part of parenting. But here’s the thing…

Facebook groups are not the place to go for medical advice.

If your kid has a rash, I do not want to see it on my newsfeed. If your child’s fever is 106 degrees or their breathing is laboured, don’t head to social media for advice – GET THEM HELP.  The same logic applies to injuries. If your kid has a wound that may or may not need stitches, for God’s sake, just take them to emerg – don’t ask a group of Internet moms if it looks bad. If you’re considering a trip to the hospital, IT LOOKS BAD. Or worst case scenario, it’s not as bad as you thought but hey, better safe than sorry.

When you ask a group of Facebook moms what the current wait is like at your local emergency room, you’re setting out on an impossible journey. Try as they might, your Facebook moms will literally never be able to give you an accurate answer. NEVER.

This is because emergency rooms are triaged, and even the most well-intentioned Facebook moms aren’t psychic. A triage system means your situation will be assessed by a nurse and weighed against the needs of everyone else in the waiting room. You’ll be seen when all of the more serious cases are taken care of.

An empty waiting room can be deceiving, and being at the hospital is not like waiting for your number to be called at a deli. Things are not nearly as linear or obvious – you don’t know who’s walking in next or what’s already happening behind closed doors. Even when it seems quiet in an emergency room, wait times are hit and miss. Another patient’s condition could change, the hospital might be understaffed or a person in worse shape than you (or your child) could walk in at any moment. Hell, an ambulance might roll up. That’s what ambulances do. You simply cannot know how long the wait will be – the medical team itself can’t be 100% sure.

Waiting hours to be seen by a doctor sucks, and sometimes there are systematic flaws to blame. I’m certainly not saying our healthcare system is perfect and runs smoothly all of the time (I once waited six hours for my son to get three stitches in his forehead – you better believe I cried many tears of frustration that night). All I’m saying is that your Facebook group truly cannot tell you what’s happening at emerg, even if they think they have the answers.

If you’ve ever seen a mom post a photo of her kid’s rash in a Facebook group, you know that she’ll be told that her kid has eczema, a gluten intolerance, hives, a dairy allergy, ringworm, cellulitis, fifth’s disease and/or a heat rash. Every mom in the thread “knows” they’re right because their kid has had whatever thing your kid might have. But none of them are doctors – at least not your kids’ doctor – and all you’re getting is the opinion of someone looking at a photo you shared on the Internet.

Why take that risk when you’re worried about something urgent enough to warrant a trip to the ER?

Moms, we are smarter than this.

Forget asking social media for answers they cannot and will not have. Just go to the doctor. Go to emerg if need be, whatever the wait time may be, and take a deep breath because it’s out of your control. Your Facebook community is probably made up of great women with the best intentions, but that’s not enough. When it comes to your children’s health, take it to a pro.



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