Ten Things to Help Your Visit to the Emergency Department

Ten Things to Help Your Visit to the Emergency Department

  • Emergency room wait times are notoriously long, but if you have a real emergency, you can get moved up to the front of the line. Certain abnormal vital signs get more immediate attention than, say, a person with a sore throat who just wants a doctor’s note. These signs include a worrisome ECG and chief complaints such as “GSW abdomen” and “found down/unresponsive.” Bonus tip: if your situation is not an extreme emergency, go in at around 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning for a shorter wait time. Alternatively, you can also visit a freestanding ER like Memorial Heights ER to avoid wait times completely.

  • Your doctor can be male or female, young or old. Oftentimes, and probably without realizing it, people hold preconceived notions of what their “doctor” will look like. Keep in mind that your doctor may not be a man and your nurse may not be a woman. Additionally, a person could have finished med school, residency, and be fully licensed as a practicing physician by age 29. So if someone introduces themselves as your doctor, please listen to what they have to say.

  • An MD/DO is not the same as a DDS. Yes, they’re all called “Doctor,” but no one in the emergency department went to dental school. If you have “tooth pain,” the right place to go is to your dentist.

  • You may be the most honest person in the world, but it is part of your doctor’s job to be a little skeptical. When there are people who will get discharged from a nearby emergency department to go straight into another one an hour later for more pain medication and another prescription (among other cheats), we have to be careful with every patient.

  • Please put down the cell phone when your doctor is in the room. If it’s clearly not an urgent call, it gives off the impression that you’re more interested in speaking to the person on the phone than to the healthcare professional in the room with you, which is disrespectful and can be off-putting.

  • Don’t expect to eat until your workup is over. Doctors do not want you to stay hungry on purpose, but they have a job to do, and to do it right, food can’t interfere with the test results they’re trying to get. If there’s any possibility that you’ll have to be put under sedation in the near future, you won’t get to eat. On the plus side, being hungry is a good sign that you’re not that sick.

  • Pain has never killed anyone, and zero pain can sometimes be impossible. No one likes to be in pain, and doctors certainly don’t want you to suffer, either. But when you’re recovering from an injury or illness, while healthcare professionals will try to make you as comfortable as possible, don’t expect to be completely without pain or discomfort. Pain might make you feel miserable, but remember that it’s not actually life-threatening and that it will pass.

  • Pain can’t kill you, but narcotics can. Unfortunately, doctors have seen the downside of narcotics, so understand why they are very careful about prescribing and using it. Because they are very addictive substances, even if you are in the worst pain of your life, don’t expect anyone to distribute it freely.

  • By helping yourself, you help the doctors (and ultimately the patients). Those working in the emergency department are encouraged to be serviceable and mindful of “customer satisfaction,” but they are incredibly busy people. So if you need something that you can get yourself, please don’t ask a doctor or nurse to get it for you. Similarly, if it looks like someone is in a hurry, they probably are, so try not to stop them to ask for a blanket.

  • The emergency department doesn’t want you to be in the emergency department any longer than you need to be either. Doctors and nurses want for you to get better just as much as you do. But keep in mind that there are numerous other patients looking for care as well, some of whom might need it more than you at any given moment. Your expectations might not be met, and your care may be inefficient, but everyone is working incredibly hard to make sure that it is thorough and excellent. If you do have concerns, feel free to voice them, but in as calm and respectful a manner as you can.

March 3, 2018