This case is the first in a six-part mini-series focusing on the management of geriatric patients in the ED. This series of cases was written by Drs. Victoria Brazil, Nemat Alsaba, and Rebecca Shaw.
Dr. Victoria Brazil is an emergency physician and medical educator. She is Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Simulation at the Gold Coast Health Service, and at Bond University medical program. Victoria’s main interests are in connecting education with patient care – through healthcare simulation, technology enabled learning, faculty development activities, and talking at conferences. Victoria is an enthusiast in the social media and #FOAMed world (@SocraticEM), and she is co-producer of Simulcast (Simulationpodcast.com). Dr. Nemat Alsaba (@talk2nemat) is an Emergency physician with a special interest in Geriatric Emergency Medicine, medical education and simulation. She is trying her best to combine these interests to improve Geriatric patient care across all health sectors. She is also an Assistant professor in medical education and simulation at Bond university. Dr. Rebecca Shaw is an emergency physician currently working as a Medical Education Fellow within the Emergency department of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia.
Why it Matters
As our global patient population ages, it is increasingly important that emergency physicians have specialized knowledge in the care of elderly patients. This is particularly true when managing patients with baseline dementia or presenting to the ED with delirium. This case highlights specific challenges in these patients, including:
- The need to recognize delirium as symptom of a large array of potential medical illnesses
- The importance of a medical work-up in patients with delirium (including blood work, urine, and possible imaging)
- The need for health care workers to have a toolbox of de-escalation techniques at their disposal
Patient is sitting on the edge of the ED bed, looking perplexed. She/he is fidgeting and not concentrating on the questions being asked, she/he is staring around the room, looking in his/her bag and picking at the BP cuff and bed sheet. The ED nurse is attempting to do some baseline vital signs on the patient.
Participants asked by ED RN “Could you please go and assess this patient? She/he has just been brought in to the ED by ambulance after a friend found her/him confused at home”
An 81-year-old (wo)man is brought to the ED by her/his friend as she/he is confused and agitated. In the ED, her/his confusion worsens. Initially she/he is fidgety but as the case progresses she/he becomes more agitated and confused. She/he will be fairly uncooperative, moving around and not able to follow many commands. The participants should be looking for a source of infection and evidence of any recent trauma. They are expected to use both non-pharmacological and safe pharmacological options in order to control the situation, ensure patient safety, and facilitate investigations.
This case is written by Drs. Nicole Kester-Green and Jen Riley. Dr. Kester-Greene is a staff physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in the Department of Emergency Services and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine. She has completed a simulation educators training course at Harvard Centre for Medical Simulation and is currently Director of Emergency Medicine Simulation at Sunnybrook. Dr. Riley is a staff emergency physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Toronto. Her areas of interest are in simulation and medical technology, with a focus on developing programs and curriculum for trainees and faculty both in medicine and allied health professions.
Why it Matters
Patients who present to the ED with agitation can be very challenging to manage. It is particularly difficult when the patient clearly lacks capacity and is unable to respond appropriately to any simple commands. In these situations, ensuring the safety of both the patient and staff members becomes the primary goal. This case highlights, specifically:
- That chemical restraint should always be used if physical restraints are to be used
- The challenges to assessing a patient who is clearly unwell when that patient is not cooperative
- The role security plays in ensuring a safe patient care experience
A Note on Safety
Pre-briefing is always an important component of simulation. For this case, it is essential that the pre-briefing takes a little extra time so that the safety of everyone involved is reviewed. The case is designed so that physical restraints are only placed once the standardized patient is traded for a mannequin. Regardless, both the standardized patient and the sim participants should be briefed on the use of simulated restraint. It is essential that a safe word like “time out” is pre-determined in case any participants are feeling unsafe at any point in the case. This would immediately halt the case. Similarly, instructors must be watching closely for safety and cut the scenario if they feel anyone may be harmed. We advocate for having security participate in this case as learners. However, briefing security that they should not use the restraints on the standardized patient would also help ensure safety.
The charge nurse comes to you: “There is a 68 year old woman in the seclusion room. She was observed pacing and acting bizarre at the bus stop. EMS managed to talk her into ambulance. On route she told them her neighbour is trying to poison her. Initially, she was calm but now she is starting to get agitated. She doesn’t have any previous psych admissions in the system. We couldn’t get any vital signs.
A 68-year old woman is found at a bus stop exhibiting bizarre behaviour. She is brought to the ED by paramedics. In the ED, she is expressing paranoid delusions. Her agitation escalates and does not respond to verbal de-escalation or an overwhelming show of force. She will require physical and chemical sedation to facilitate the work-up for her new onset psychosis.
ECG for the case found here:
(ECG source: https://lifeinthefastlane.com/ecg-library/normal-sinus-rhythm/)
This case was written by Dr. Kyla Caners. She is a PGY5 Emergency Medicine resident at McMaster University and is also one of the Editors-in-Chief here at EMSimCases.
Why it Matters
It’s easy as a simulation case writer to get excited about complex cases with rare presentations. But it’s also important to remember to teach to the level of the resident. This case highlights some very important lessons for junior learners:
- The importance of a broad differential diagnosis in the altered patient
- How to prioritize and coordinate an extensive work-up for a relatively ill patient
- Recognizing when an altered patient needs to be intubated
We take these skills for granted as experienced clinicians. But it’s amazing how many excellent teaching conversations come from running this very simple case.
An 82 year old man arrives to the ED by EMS with a GCS of 7. He smells of urine and feces, and apparently has not been seen in 4 days. He is hypotensive and tachycardic. With simple fluid resuscitation (1-2L), the BP will improve. Learners are to organize a broad diagnostic work-up and coverage with broad-spectrum antibiotics. They must also recognize the need to intubate. If they do not, the patient will vomit and have a resultant desaturation. The case ends after successful workup and intubation.
You are working in a community ED. Mr. Alito Bizzaro is brought in by EMS into a resuscitation room with altered LOC. He is known to be reclusive, but always picks up his paper at 10am. His neighbours had not seen him pick up his paper in 4 days, and so they called. The patient was found on the floor in his apartment near the doorway to the bathroom. He is 82 years old and lives alone. His apartment was unkempt. The patient is covered in urine and feces.
Download the case here: aLOC Case
ECG for the case found here:
(ECG source: http://cdn.lifeinthefastlane.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/sinus-tachycardia.jpg)
CXR for the case found here:
(CXR source: https://emcow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/normal-intubation2.jpg)