ED silly season over for another year

27 January 2016

As the country heads back to work and school, memories of the festive season may already be starting to fade. For some, however, memories of a holiday trip to ED may not be forgotten so easily. Emergency nurse practitioner MICHAEL GERAGHTY shares an emergency nursing perspective of the summer silly season.

From an Auckland perspective, one of the best things about summer is that for the fortnight-long Xmas/New Year break there are no traffic jams – anywhere!

Auckland seems to empty out for that period and, ipso facto, we (the emergency department) should be nice and quiet; sadly, this is not the case. 

I drew the short straw and worked through most of the stats, which was good for the wallet, but less so for the soul.

This time of year is traditionally known as the ‘season to be merry’ and, typically, some people take that statement literally and over-imbibe. From an ED perspective, the 'silly season' can at times equally be called ‘the season to beat up the wife or child', ‘the season of near drownings’ or ‘the season of eating undercooked food off the BBQ’.

At Auckland City Hospital we had record numbers over the Xmas/New Year fortnight and, while there are always some tragic or traumatic presentations, there was also a huge number of non-emergent cases filling the waiting room to capacity most days.

Here are my top 10 examples of silly season visitors guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of the triage nurse:

  1. “Hello, my uncle is upstairs on ward 33 so I thought I would pop in about this lump I’ve had for about 10 years now… you’re not busy, are you?”
  2. “Can I make an appointment and come back later?”
  3. “My GP is closed and I just need... a repeat prescription for my codeine and tramadol OR... a quick blood test OR... my blood pressure checked.”
  4. “I’m visiting here from [insert any city] and I just thought I’d pop in for a check-up.”
  5. “I have had one bout of diarrhoea one hour ago and I feel fine now, is it serious?”
  6. “What do you mean, there is no free wi-fi?”
  7. “I was bitten by a monkey in Thailand and was told to come here for my final rabies injection today, oh and my flight to Australia leaves in three hours.” (Usually happens on a public holiday.)
  8. “I have come back because I am still in pain… no, I haven’t filled the prescription given to me.”
  9. “I was Skyping my sister in Australia, she has measles and I think I may have caught it.” (Yes, this did happen!)
  10. “I can’t sleep, but no, it has nothing to do with my amphetamine binge three days ago.”

This was my 30th southern hemisphere silly season and little surprises me now! 

I left the UK in 1986 for a ‘short holiday down-under’ but have now lived and worked longer in New Zealand than I did in England and figure I can now call myself a Kiwi. Like most people, I look forward to the New Zealand summer: the sun, surf, downtime from work and the chance to catch up with friends and family and all that entails. Hopefully, though, not an unnecessary trip to ED.



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