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Disability support worker comforting a person with intellectual disability as they wait in Emergency

People with ​Intellectual Disabilities

Waiting in Emergency 

When a person with intellectual disability goes to hospital, they may have a family member or a disability support worker with them.

In these videos, you will meet,  Jeff who is with Amelia, his disability support worker. You will also meet Curtis, who is with Ray, his father.

Applying the Framework

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Knowing segment highlighted.

Knowing that

  • If you go to the waiting area of an Emergency Department you may have to wait a long time.

  • From the waiting area, you can't see how busy it is the Emergency Department.

  • There may be other people waiting to see a doctor or nurse who are sicker than you. 

  • A nurse asks each person who comes to the waiting area questions to work out how sick they are and how quickly they need to be seen. 

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Informing segment highlighted.



The person with you, such as member of your family, a friend or a disability support worker, will need to tell the nurse  

  • their relationship with you and how well they know you 

  • the reason you have come to the hospital

  • how long they can stay with you

  • how you tell them that you are in pain, or feel sick or anxious

  • how to give you the chance to answer questions for yourself

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Collaborating segment highlighted.

Collaborating  happens when the person with you


  • stays calm when talking to nurses, doctors and other hospital staff

  • repeats what they have told another hospital worker

  • answers questions for you if you need help

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Supporting segment highlighted.



You will feel supported when the person with you

  • knows what you will need 

  • tells you what a nurse or other hospital staff has told them 

  • asks you if it is okay if they answer questions for you 

  • stays calm and reassures you

  • asks hospital staff to do things that will help make you more comfortable and less anxious


People who support you when you go to hospital need to know what happens in the Emergency Department waiting area.

The person with you needs to tell the nurse at the window about their relationship with you -  that is, if they are a family member, friend or disability support worker. That person can answer questions for you with your permission. They can also let hospital staff know what you need while waiting to go into the Emergency Department.

If you find it hard to wait, the person with you can tell hospital staff, and work with them to help make you more comfortable.  

There is more information in the Resources section about hospital emergency department processes.



These activities will help you to think about what you have learned. You can do them or your own as an Individual or with friends as a Group. You can write answers in the workbook that you can download onto your computer. 

Write down your answers to these questions in your workbook or ask someone to write them for you:

  1. If you were in an Emergency Department waiting area, like the one Jeff and Curtis were in, how would you feel?

  2. How would you make sure the nurse knew how you felt?

  3. What would you like the nurse to do?

  4. Would you like to have the person with you answer a nurse's questions about you?

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