Emergency Room Visits: What You Need to Know, Part 1

By Dr. Regina Hillsman

A trip to the emergency room is always traumatic, but there are steps you can take to smooth out the process.

1. Know Your Health Care Provider’s Toll-Free Line Sometimes the necessity of an ER visit is not immediately transparent. Perhaps you are experiencing symptoms that are cause for concern but do not seem cause for great concern. In such cases, make sure you have easy access to your healthcare provider’s after-hours toll-free number. Calling will put you in touch with a nurse who can diagnose your symptoms and help determine whether a trip to the emergency room is necessary. The toll-free number can be found on your provider’s website, as well as on the back of your healthcare card.

2. Understand ER Areas Many emergency rooms are divided into different sections: trauma, pediatric, observation, and others. In emergencies, panic often clouds our minds and obscures judgment; researching your hospital’s emergency room layout ahead of time makes for one less item to worry about if you need to go to the ER.

3. Organize Emergency Data ER physicians need to know certain information, such as patient allergies, current medications, health insurance plans, and chronic conditions. Gathering such data when an emergency takes place can waste precious time. Therefore, buy a folder, fill it with copies of all your emergency information, and keep it in an easily accessible place so you can quickly retrieve it in case of an emergency.

4. Be Patient Unless you have suffered severe trauma, most emergency rooms will enforce a routine that entails you being assessed, having your vital signs measured, and being directed to a waiting area where you and other patients will be called in order of urgency. Cooperating with the triage nurse who examines you will expedite the process.

5. Visit the Same Hospital If you suffer an emergency away from home, you should visit the nearest ER location. But when you are close to your home base, try to visit your regular hospital, as the doctors and staff there have access to your medical chart and other information collected over the course of previous visits.

By Dr. Regina Hillsman