Emergency Care For You

Why Am I Waiting So Long?

Emergency physicians are committed to providing high quality emergency care as quickly as possible to all patients, but if you’ve been to a hospital emergency department lately, you most likely know that many of America's ERs are overcrowded.

There are two kinds of waiting - in the waiting room and for a hospital inpatient bed. Many patients who have been admitted to the hospital lie in gurneys along the halls, waiting hours - sometimes days - to be moved to inpatient beds, a practice known as “boarding.”

Boarding means emergency staff can’t care for additional patients from the waiting room or from an ambulance, which also leads to ambulance diversion. Boarding is the primary cause of gridlock in our nation's emergency departments - not the myth that too many people are coming with non-urgent medical conditions. Boarding and emergency department crowding are dangerous because they can jeopardize a patient’s ability to receive high-quality, lifesaving medical care in a timely manner and interfere with the ability of emergency departments to respond to a potential pandemic illness or terrorist attack. 

Many hospitals have stopped “boarding” patients in emergency departments and instead, once they are admitted to the hospital, move them directly to the floors to which they are admitted. This spreads the burden of overcrowding throughout the hospital and often results in beds becoming more quickly available. ACEP advocates on behalf of emergency patients and has developed effective solutions to overcrowding. In addition, ACEP is working at the state and national levels, in urging decision makers and policymakers to implement these solutions to help emergency patients and to improve our healthcare system as a whole.