Visiting the Emergency Room
For some members of my family, every injury is an emergency. My daughter, for example, has been bemoaning a small scrape on her hand for several days; she's 7, though.
Me? I have to be at death's door to even consider medical care. That said, I've made two trips to the emergency room this year already, the most recent this past weekend for an acute appendicitis. That's two of the 123.8 million visits Americans make to the ER every year, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are some things to consider the next time you head to the emergency room:
Pick the right emergency room. Make sure you go to the best emergency room for your condition. In our city there are half a dozen hospitals with emergency rooms. A couple focus on trauma, while others are better for illness and minor injuries like broken bones and cuts.
The difference in choosing the right facility may be how fast you get treated. I chose a smaller emergency room known for a lower patient load and was seen more quickly. Plan where you'll go before an emergency happens.
Take someone with you or have them meet you there. If you're in bad enough condition to go to an emergency department, you're going to need an advocate. My wife took me this time; she knows all about my medical issues. Whoever it is should know enough about you to help medical care workers with questions.
Remember important medications. There are lots of reasons for this. First, you're going to be asked ad infinitum which medications you take. It's helpful to have a list with you; keep it in you wallet or purse. If you carry a smartphone, use an In Case of Emergency app that lists all your medications, contact numbers and some of your medical history.
Even better: Take the drugs with you if you can. For me, taking my insulin and my blood glucose meter turned out to be really important on my last visit. Neither the hospital nor my surgeon seemed to understand how to bring down my blood sugar when it spiked due to fever. I was able to manage my blood sugar myself.
Make certain it's an emergency. Nothing is trickier than deciding whether to go to the ER. Bleeding profusely? Yes. Broken bone? Yes. Heart attack? Heck, yes. But what about a high fever? What about an asthma attack? What about a sprained ankle? What about colds and flu?
Some common reasons for visiting the emergency room can be handled by your primary physician. If they're open, give them a call. They're usually very good about directing you to the right kind of facility.
Urgent care facilities are also an option and they typically stay open longer than your primary physician's offices. Urgent care facilities can handle a wide range of injuries and illnesses.
Understand triage. Just because you arrive by ambulance, doesn't mean you'll go to the head of the line. At the ER, you'll be triaged--this means they'll treat patients in order of the greatest needs. Or to put it more bluntly, as ER workers did in this Reader's Digest story:
"Waiting is good. It means you're not going to die. The person you need to feel sorry for is the one who gets rushed into the ER and treated first."
Ask questions. Before I left the hospital after my recent appendectomy, I had lots of questions. When could I exercise again? What could I eat? Why was I being given stool softeners? (Believe me, you want to know the answer to questions like that!)
If you don't understand something, ask your doctor or nurse the question again. And don't forget to read the discharge papers. They usually have helpful information about treatment and symptoms.
Hopefully, you want have to go to the emergency room. But if you do, a little preparation may make your visit go more smoothly.