Is your emergency department ready for summer?
Compared to other seasons, summer brings the third largest influx of emergency department patients. Most ERs see an average of 666 patients per day between June and August every year.
Even though the scorching temperatures may not bring in as many patients as the spring or winter season, veteran ER doctor Stephen Knight of Ormond Beach, FL says there’s an increase in specific types of cases emergency departments will be faced with.
And research supports this by proving there is in fact an increase in “lower acuity” cases. We interviewed Dr. Knight to get his take on some of the interesting things he has seen in the ED during the summer months.
Summertime In The ER: Here’s How This Season Differs
With the extra hours of sunlight, people are more likely to spend their days and evenings outdoors.
Whether that’s going for a hike, barbecuing for dinner, or choosing a location by the water to hang out like the beach or pool, the exposure to environmental elements naturally goes up.
Because of this, Dr. Knight says many emergency departments see an increase in cases like:
- Heat exhaustion
- Skin rashes from chiggers and poison ivy
- Bug bites and bee stings
- Lightning strikes
But these aren’t the only cases your ED will be treating this summer.
Larger outdoor injuries and traumas are also more common during this season as people get to be more adventurous. Accidents caused by water toys, bikes, ATVs, and landscaping equipment all rise.
“One patient came in the ER due to a combination of summertime causes: a bee sting and a motorcycle crash,” recalls Dr. Knight. “He had a bee go down his shirt while riding his motorcycle, causing him to crash.”
Dr. Knight recalled another story involving a bug bite victim. “One very unfortunate kid came in from a wasp sting to his uvula. The wasp crawled into his soda and he unknowingly swallowed it only to get stung by the wasp on its way down.”
To keep your hospital prepared for the sudden influx of patients in these situations, consider adopting the following strategies and your warmer months will be covered.
How To Prepare For The Summertime Influx In ER Patients
Dr. Knight remembered one summer where the ED saw over 200 ED patients for severe sunburn conditions.
“One patient was a famous television star who had come to visit our beaches on Friday, got lots of sun on Saturday, came to the ED on Sunday, and had to be at work in New York on Monday. To continue shooting for the show, the writers changed the script, wrapped her in bandages, and made up some story that she had some terrible accident.”
And this was just during one summer month.
To prepare for such an unexpected influx, he recommends using a surge plan.
This is a specific outline for how you’ll handle your summer increases.
In this document, you’ll include your current capacity and how many patients you can handle before reaching full capacity.
You should also add processes for how you’ll treat patients who present symptoms of the common summer ailments listed above.
Additionally, establishing on-call physicians and staff is a must to ensure your team won’t be scrambling to handle this influx of patients at the last minute.
It also keeps you from wasting hours on downtime so you only use them when you absolutely need them.
Finally, your surge plan should also include a separate budgetary provision for the bump in supplies you’ll need during this time too.
Don’t Let The Summer Months Throw A Curveball At Your Emergency Department
Preparing your emergency department for summer means you won’t be sidelined by what the scorching temperatures and extra hours of sunlight bring in.
So your first order of business is taking a proactive approach to summertime in the ED by creating a surge plan. This will help you determine your capacity while also giving your patients the best care.
Don’t let seasonal influxes ruin your hospital’s performance average — prepare your ED and you’ll get ahead of the summer season stress-free.