What to Know Before Visiting the Emergency Room
1. Don’t go the emergency room alone. Bring a spouse, a friend, relative, or even a neighbor. If your condition is serious, you may need someone to provide information and even if you’re coherent, time passes more quickly with company. Most emergency rooms are understaffed due to nursing shortages. Busy nurses may not have the time to offer comfort while you wait so if you bring along a companion, he or she can ask for a cold compress for your head or a blanket from the warmer. Blanket warmers are universal in the ER and if you’re cold or in shock, a warm blanket can help make you more comfortable until treatment is given. If you’re very sick, you may need someone to collect treatment instructions and get you back home.
2. If you take any medications at all, bring a list along and if possible, bring the medications. The medical staff needs to know what drugs you are taking to avoid interaction problems. Should you need to be admitted, it’s wise (and will save you a little money) to have your own meds.
3. Be honest. If you did something foolish that caused the injury, don’t be too ashamed to tell the staff. Professionals will see through a story and knowing the facts may help them determine treatment. Don’t lie about drinking if you’ve had a few beers – alcohol may affect any drugs administered. And, if you’ve been using drugs, speak up. If you don’t, the results can be deadly. Most of all, if you might be pregnant, say so. And don’t be offended if staff inquires about potential pregnancy. Until they know you’re not, any female between the ages of 10 and 70, the possibility of pregnancy must be considered.
4. Make that truth the complete and total truth. If a patient is HIV positive but hides that fact, a wrong diagnosis could result. Other illnesses that include diabetes and hepatitis can also affect tests chosen by staff or treatment.
5. If you need privacy to tell the truth, ask. The staff will make sure that you have it. Whether you’re pregnant and don’t want the fact known to your companion or you’re taking Viagra but didn’t want your partner to know, ask for privacy if you need it rather than withold information.
6. After arriving at the ER, do not eat or drink unless you consult a nurse. Food or drink might affect test results or interact with medications. It also could interfere with treatment depending on the patient’s condition.
7. Don’t use the restroom unless you or your companion has checked with a nurse. Some cases will require a specimen and if you’ve gone to the bathroom before being asked, you might have to wait. There is also the chance that the patient’s condition discouraged walking to a restroom.
8. Bring along a favorite book or magazine to pass the time if you have to wait. If you’re knitting a scarf or sewing something by hand, stick the project in your purse. Having something to do will help the time pass quicker in the waiting room and even after you’ve reached a cubicle in the ER. Make sure your care partner brings along something, too.
9. Inform the nurse or staff members of any changes in your condition. If the pain increases, if the bleeding intensifies, or if you feel woozy, tell someone. If you’ve been given medication, speak up if you begin to feel odd after the dose was given. Feeling like you might vomit? Mention it and they can provide you with a basin, preventing both mess and limiting embarassment. If you feel better, speak up. It might expedite your trip home.
10. Ask any question. No question is too dumb to ask. As a patient, you need to know what’s going on so ask. If a sprain nets you a pair of crutches and you don’t know how to use them, ask for assistance. If you’re not sure what “bed rest” means, ask them to be specific. It’s easier to ask now than to ask your own doctor – who may not know the details of your ER visit – later.