Patients in the Emergency Room: Who are they?

I recently read an article in the Roanoke Times written by Leana Wen, MD, an emergency physician at George Washington University in Washinton, DC.  The article was titled, “The 10 Types of ER Patients,” and it was not very complimentary of the individuals who rush to their local ER department due to a health concern.  Doctor Wen has names for these various patients such as “The Yeller…The Narcotic Seeker…The Googler…and The Pain All over Patient.”

Not a very sympathetic doctor!

I have a few descriptions of my law firm’s clients who ended up in the ER only to receive no or substandard care from the ER physician.  Those names include:

1. The “Bounceback” patient who presents to the ER on multiple occasions with worsening symptoms and the ER physician fails to adequately work up the patient, doesn’t diagnose what is causing the patient’s symptoms, and sends the patient home until they finally return to the ER with life-threatening problems.

2. The “Non-Traditional or Doesn’t Fit” patient – like a 35 year old female with classic signs of cardiac problems but the ER doctor sends them home because no 35 year old female, who is not over weight and is a non-smoker, could ever have cardiac issues.

3. The “Worst Heachache Ever” patient who complains of tremendous headache pain with blinding sensitivity to light and the ER doctor sends them home, without adequate testing, with pain medications and directions to see their family doctor.

The real life stories outlined above did not turn out well for the patients.  The “Bounceback” got so sick he ended up in the hospital for almost two months for an infection which, if diagnosed, could have been handled with a week’s worth of antibiotics.  Sadly, the “Non-Traditional or Doesn’t Fit” and “Worst Headache Ever” patients both died.

My Take:  Maybe physicians practicing in hospital emergency departments should come up with better way to label their patients.



Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at