Playing Favorites and Professional Courtesy? It happens


now-servingWorking in the emergency department, I realize that the triage system is important so that the most ill and injured people get treated first, while those that are totally stable may have to wait a significant amount of time before being seen by a physician. I would never withhold life saving care to someone that needs it to give minimal treatment to someone I liked better.

That said, is there a place for playing favorites and professional courtesy?

I know the ‘correct’ answer is, “No, you have to treat all patients equally, and give them the care they need as their needs require and your ability permits.” I also know that most people in the emergency department do play favorites to some extent.

Here are some of the people that get bumped up a triage level or two and will receive care more quickly than someone else with identical problems, but not in that specific group.

“Even if they are not currently working, I will still bump them up a little because of the professional courtesy rule.”

Public servants

Police officers, firemen, and medics, especially if they are on duty at the time, will be treated more quickly than most. These people need to get back to work for the public good. Even if they are not currently working, I will still bump them up a little because of the professional courtesy rule.

More than once I have been given a warning instead of a ticket because I had scrubs on and, when asked, mentioned that I worked in the emergency department. These people are at an increased risk for needing emergent care because of the dangers associated with their professions. I imagine that they want to take good care of me, the person who will be starting their IV to give them blood or pain medicines, the same way that I want to take care of them.

At least once a month, I have to call 911 to have some meth-head removed from the emergency department and I appreciate how fast they respond when there is a 911 call from the ER.

The firemen and medics are heroes to me, so even though I personally don’t require their services as often as I do the police, there is still a professional appreciating for what they do.

Co-workers and family members

These people move through quicker because they know the system and are able to assist in the process.

The last time I had to be seen in the emergency department, I filled out my own triage form, set up the suture tray for the doctor and gave myself my own discharge instructions. I even cleaned the room and put new sheets on the bed when I was done. Even if my co-workers aren’t as proactive as that, the name recognition and desire to keep a close working relationship with them will push them toward the head of the line.


People in military uniform will also be moved quicker than their complaints may dictate. Having served in the Army, I realize that these people are quite capable of waiting in lines for hours on end and can endure pain and suffering better than most people could dream possible, but I also realize that they are getting sent into harms way, far too often, so that a draft is not required and the rest of us can live as we choose.

Is it okay to play favorites and pay a professional courtesy? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.

I’m sure I will get plenty of hate mail over this, telling me it is wrong to treat patients differently because of any reason, but I’m curious to see what groups of people other nurses will treat differently.

Hopefully not many people have a bias based on race, religion, etc … but if so, I’m curious to hear how you justify it.

Are there any groups that get pushed back and have to wait longer than their chief complaint would dictate? Perhaps a scroller that has been to the ER five times in the last week with the same complaint or maybe someone that claims to have a pain level of 14 out of ten on the pain scale?

Please use the comments section to tell your preferences, as I’m curious to see if nurses from other departments have a different set of favorites than emergency nurses.

, , , , , ,

Skip to toolbar