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The boarding experience from the patient perspective: the wait
  1. Shan Liu1,
  2. Leslie Milne1,
  3. Brian Yun2,
  4. Kathleen Walsh1
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shan Liu, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Zero Emerson, 348, Boston, MA 02114, USA; sliu1{at}


Study objective We sought to better understand the experience of being a boarder patient.

Methods We conducted a qualitative study between March and August 2012 to examine the experience of boarding in an urban, teaching hospital emergency department (ED). We included boarder patients and selected patients based on a convenience sample. Interviews were semistructured, consisting of eight main open-ended questions. Interviews were transcribed; codes were generated and then organised into categorises and subsequently into one theme. We concluded analysis when we achieved thematic saturation. Our institutional review board approved this study.

Results Our final sample included 18 patients. The average age was 62.3 years. Patients characterised waiting as central to their experience as a boarder patient. One patient stated, “Well if you have to wait for a bed you have to wait for a bed, it's terrible.” Three categories exemplified this waiting experience: (1) there was often lack of communication; (2) patients experienced frustration during this waiting period; and yet (3) patients often differentiated the experience of waiting from the care they were receiving.

Conclusions Being a boarder patient was characterised as a waiting experience associated with poor communication and frustration. However, patients may still differentiate their feelings towards the wait from those towards the medical care they are receiving. Our data add more reason to eradicate the practice of ED boarding.

  • emergency care systems, emergency departments
  • emergency department management

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