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Important Things to Do if Visiting Emergency Room

Written by Marisa Fernandez, MD.

Nobody wants to have to visit the emergency room. Unfortunately, accidents happen and people may at some point require urgent or emergent medical care. If you, a family member or friend ever need to rush to the ER, here are some important things you may want consider. You'd understandably be in a hurry, but following this quick to-do list may save your sanity.

1. Do bring your list of prescriptions or even better yet, the pill bottles themselves. They have also sorts of helpful information - the name of the doctor who prescribed them for you, how often you actually are taking your medications, what the actual dosage is, and do you have more than one doctor following you? People tend to forget this kind of important medical information. Additionally, do not forget your insurance card, it will make things faster and easier. It's a good idea to keep this info organized.

Our article on how to organize medical information will start you in the right direction.

2. Do bring a friend or family member. Whatever got you into the ER in the first place is probably a surprise, and an inconvenience at the least. Support and company are always good things.

3. Do bring your cell phone charger. You are probably going to need it.

4. Do bring a pen and paper - write down the names of the people taking care of you.  At some point in the night, this will come in handy. For example, if you need your nurse, you'll save twenty minutes of aggravation if you know to ask for Susan. Also to write down the address, the phone number, and name of the hospital you are at so you can inform friends and family.

5. Do be very vocal about your allergies.  Even if one staff member is aware, another may not be. Some hospitals will put a bracelet on your wrist. Make sure this bracelet identifies your allergies correctly.

6. Do have the names and phone numbers of your doctors. The ER doctor may want to call them and check in or perhaps get a little more information.

7. Do know in advance what your wishes are. Make this clear to family members ahead of time by having it written down somewhere. Although again, this is uncomfortable to think about, it is absolutely one of the most important steps you can take.

8. Do take the time to sit down and decide who will make health care decisions for you in the event that you can't speak for yourself.  This can be a very distressing topic to think about, but it's very important to have settled ahead of time.  Pick someone who would actually carry out your wishes.

9. Do ask questions. You have the right to be told, in layman's terms, what procedures you are having and why.  What the medications you are receiving and why.  What specialists are being called and why.  And what the results of your testing is and what it means.

10. Do know that if you are not happy with what is happening or if you feel like your treatment could be better, you have the right to express that to supervisors.  Most hospitals have a patient rights department for this reason and people on staff that can help. This should not affect your care in a negative way. 

11. Do understand the staff members of the ER are always working their hardest under difficult situations to take care of their patients. Overcrowding in the ER has only gotten worse and long waits are inevitable. Please remember to be patient and kind. These folks are doing their best. It's a lot of pressure to save people's lives, feed and house a crowded room full of people and the responsibility of having to be correct and perfect in your decisions and behaviors all the time, all while being stressed and standing for 12 straight hours.

Marisa Fernandez, MD
Marisa Fernandez, MD

Marisa was born and raised in Orange County California.  She graduated from U.C.Berkeley with honors in Psychology.  After working as an author on developmental psychology texts, she changed career paths to one of medicine, pursuing her medical degree at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.  Marisa complete.. Read more

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