Little Changes Make Big Differences in Emergency Department Waiting Room

Registered nurse Adrian McKee (left) and medic Jay Stewertson talk using the new intercom system inside the Emergency Department. The same unit is used out front at the first Triage Desk as you enter, one of the many items purchased thanks to your donations to the Family CARE Grant program.

Changes are coming to the Emergency Department at our Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, thanks to your donations to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation’s Family Care Grant program. In fact, you can see some of those changes already in the waiting room.

The first thing you may notice is the new two-way speaker system at the front Triage Desk. The previous system could cut out, crackle, and pop with feedback. It was hard enough for someone with normal hearing to communicate in the busy Emergency Department. For those who have trouble hearing, it was very difficult.

The new two-way intercom system helps the triage nurse at the front door communicate with patients better. Sound is louder and clearer so patients can hear and understand the questions.

“I use the new intercom almost daily – I’m often at the Triage Desk,” said Adrian McKee, a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department. “It’s so important to have the good communication with patients. But with the background noise, the overhead speaker, and the Plexiglas barrier, talking to patients when they first come in can be difficult. The new speaker system is definitely an improvement.”

Family Care Grant funded six new speakers including at the front Triage Desk and the Ambulance Bay.

Another item arriving soon is a charging station for phones and devices. Emergency Department visits often aren’t planned, so people may be arriving with low or no charge. That combined with constant communications with family members means batteries drain quickly. Staff would often lend patients charging cords, but that wasn’t ideal.

“This thing will be game-changing,” McKee said. “Phones are absolutely essential in everyday life, especially when there’s an emergency. The charging station will have all the different types of adapters, so there’s no worry about not having the right cord.”

The stations include a locker system so you can place your device inside and safely lock it up while it’s charging.

Perhaps the most visible change in the waiting room is the new water station. During the first COVID outbreak, the water fountain in the Emergency Department waiting room was removed due to the risk of transmission. Patients would often go to the reception desk asking for a glass of water.

“We’re always happy to get patients water,” McKee said. “But it’s a busy place, so there isn’t always someone available to get it for them right away. Finding a way for patients to safely get their own water is a much better solution.”

A Family Care Grant funded a new touchless water fountain to replace the old one. It also features a water bottle refill station so that patients can bring their own bottles from home. That station is 100% touchless as well – simply hold your water bottle under the spout and it automatically fills you up. It’s a cleaner, greener solution.

“It’s a great idea in a hospital waiting room even without COVID,” McKee said. “Thanks to all the donors who helped fund this new water filling station and all the items we were able to purchase to improve patient care.”

Sometimes it’s the little comforts that make a big difference. You can help frontline staff like Adrian McKee fund more projects in our Hospital that will improve patient care. To find out more and to donate, please visit: