Setting Description: Emergency Waiting Room


Automatic sliding doors, beat-up chairs (filled with people who have: broken limbs, cuts, red noses, bruising, scrapes, holding garbage bins to throw up in, are wearing surgical masks, are crying, have been beaten, are holding onto the person next to them for support, reading magazines, books, clutching at purses or holding tight to jackets slung over an arm, leaning back in their chair asleep), overflowing garbage bins, half finished coffee containers, piles of newspapers and magazines, nurses, orderlies, janitorial staff, dividing curtain for people with airborne illness or contagious diseases, glassed in admitting area, glassed in reception area, nearby bathroom, vending machine, signs to other hospital areas, stretchers zooming past with paramedics, blood pressure monitor stand near the ER, sliding doors to the ER, doctors in scrubs and white coats passing through the area, people in wheelchairs, intoxicated people, worried parents and friends, small children huddled in parents arms, kids playing handhelds or listening to ipods, Cabbies coming in for pick ups, wristbands on patients waiting to see a doctor, ice packs, bandages, stethoscopes hung around necks, people whispering, security personnel, police officers, hand sanitizing stations


Whispering, crying, uneven or distressed breathing, the sound of someone throwing up, moaning, groaning, whimpering, pleasing, praying, newspapers rattling, arguing, magazine pages flipping, the papery slide of a book page being turned, the pop and fizz of a pop can being opened, the rattle of candy and chip wrappers, glass doors sliding open and shut, names being called to admitting and the front desk, security and paging over intercoms, static-y police & security radios, the calming voice of a nurse, the rustle of paperwork, pens clicking on to fill something out, people talking on cels, footsteps pacing, swearing, drunken slurring, coins clinking in the vending machine, the thunk of a candy bar or pop hitting the tray, sirens, squeaky wheel on a crash cart or stretcher zooming past


Antiseptic, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, vomit, BO, sweat, booze breath, coffee, taco chips, perfume, hair products, cough drops, air conditioned & filtered air


Coffee in a container, pop, juice and water from a container, snack foods from a vending machine, mints, gum, nicorette. Most people try hard not to eat in the waiting room because of the risk of exposure to airborne and surface contaminants.


Thin padded or plastic seats offering little comfort or room, metal arm rails digging into forearms, making oneself 'small' and holding self straight to avoid touching those to either side, twisting the admittance band on wrist, rolling shoulders, crossing and recrossing legs, cracking knuckles, glancing around, standing up to pace, walking over to browse the vending machine, digging in pocket or purse for change, the cold, dewy bottle of water against the palm or warmth seeping out a Styrofoam coffee container, flipping through a magazine or paper, checking watch or phone for time, texting, scrolling through iPod, going out into the lobby or heading down the hall to find a cafe/gift shop/cafeteria, talking quietly on the phone, pulling tissues from a tissue box, tapping foot impatiently, twisting hands together, fiddling with purse straps, buttons on a coat, twisting a wedding band, rubbing eyes, pinching bridge of the nose, rubbing arms and shaking self in an attempt to stay awake, leaning back against the wall and dozing, fanning self with a magazine, tapping a magazine against the leg, standing in line at the reception to check on a patient being seen by doctors, trading encouraging smiles with others who are waiting, or initiating small talk to make the time go by faster, blowing nose, wiping at tears, getting up to use a washroom or put hand sanitizer on

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

I stared down at my hands, twisting and knotting them as if doing so would hold back the turmoil inside me. Despair roamed the room, expelled on the breath of worriers like me and those doing their best to bite down on the pain that brought them here.

Example 2:

Hannah sagged in my arms, her feverish warmth making me wish I'd taken my coat off before she'd fallen asleep. I pushed a clump of damp blond hair off her flushed cheek and she moaned softly, a sound common enough that no one else in the waiting area even looked up.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

After the symphony of coughing, hacking and wheezing that greeted Becky in the ER waiting room, she found the closest antibacterial hand dispenser and starting working it like a gambling addict hitting up a VLT machine.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

During Rick's six hour stint in the ER waiting room on Saturday night he learned two important things: first, all the crazies really did come out after midnight. And second, there was a very good reason for the plexiglass fortress that surrounded the receptopn desk, and for the armed guard standing in front of it.

Bookmark and Share


Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Angela, another extraordinary crafting post! Thanks for being so informative time and time again :)


Terri said...

Great job evoking a place we'd rather not spend too much time in!

ralfast said...

Great stuff and timely for me considering how much time I have spent in hospitals recently. There is something about the combination of antiseptic smell and the ever present glare of white halogen lights that really destroys me when I am in a hospital, especially if I have to spend a long, cold night in an Emergency Room corridor with a grieving relative.

Heather said...

This is fantastic! It captured the feel of an ER room perfectly! Great inspiration, thanks!

MaryWitzl said...

I've worked in quite a few hospitals and this is a good assessment. Though depending on the hospital (and the country), you could definitely work in even more smells!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is a place I know only too well. But at least the new Children's Hospital ER is much nice than the old one.

E. Arroyo said...

Nice post. This is where I lack and it helps to think of it this way. Thanks,

Lisa and Laura said...

There's part of our WIP set in a hospital and this post makes me itch to edit! Great work!

Jaleh D said...

The example with the simile made me laugh. I could perfectly visualize the gal working the sanitizer pump.

Actually they were all great. The sampling of senses have a wonderful amount of detail. Even though I hope none of us need to experience an ER visit personally.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great post! I write note like this every time I travel. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post - sounds like you were speaking from experience there :)

Shauna (murgatr)

Wendy Marcus said...

The crazies really do come out during a full moon. Can't explain why, but working in an ER, I've experienced it!

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone for sharing and commenting. Sladly yes, this one os personal experience, although my waiting time was closer to ten fun-filled hours. Still, I filled the time looking at the room and the people, knowing it was a perfect setting to blog about. It helped pass the time a bit.

Sorry for everyone who is all too familiar with this one. Still I hope it helps anyone writing hospital ER room scenes (like the awesomo Lisa and Laura!)


Tahereh said...

wow angela, i'm always blown away by your attention to detail! another great post!!

April said...

Great post! I've recently learned to do close my eyes and take each sense at a time. To actually put myself there in the moment and write it. Not on the first draft, necessarily, but certainly on the revision. I've been there in the ER, and you put me right there again while sitting at my work desk!

KLM said...

The whiff of hand sanitizer hangs heavy over this post, Angela. In fact, I feel a cough coming on. I hope I'm not catching something. Or worse, getting MRSA!!!! AHHHH!!!

Hope your hubby is feeling better and life is getting back on an even keel.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Since I've spent too much time in too many emergency rooms, your post struck a true chord with me.

It seems you're fond of zombies. I found a new author site that details a zombie I don't think I ever before read about :

Not mine. That would be too tacky. But blog just starting out. Lena shows great promise, and I thought it might be nice for all of us to pop in and surprise her with a warm, friendly hello. Roland

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Great job, Angela!

Having spent more time with my late husband in the ER than I care to remember, I'd add:

Triage area
Casting room (for broken bones)
X-Rays/CAT Scan
Blood pressure cuffs
Isolation room for those with lowered immune system (there's a name for it, but I can't recall what it is).
Heart monitors
Admissions clerks taking information with computers on portable carts.

I could probably come up with more, but it's late. :)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...