What should I know before going to the emergency room (ER)?

Before going to the emergency room (ER) you should know that when you arrive in the ER you will first be seen by the triage nurse, or intake nurse who will ask you about the details of your complaint and take your vital signs.  It will then be decided if your problem needs to be addressed immediately, heart attack or trauma for instance, or if you will be sent to the waiting room for a less threatening condition, like a cold. Sometimes the waiting time in the ER can be several hours so it might be prudent to bring a book and a snack!

There are a few things you should know before going to the emergency room (ER). These tips can help you successfully navigate the ER with as little stress as possible.

  • Come prepared. When you go to the ER, you’ll be asked questions about your medical history and the medicines you are taking. This can be difficult when you’re flustered or stressed, so come prepared. Keep a list of any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications or supplements—including names, dosages and what you’re taking them for—on your phone. Also make a list of any chronic conditions you have. This will help the ER get the most accurate information as quickly as possible.
  • Be honest. Emergency room doctors have seen it all, so don’t feel ashamed or worried about telling them something embarrassing. Answering all questions honestly can help ensure you get the best possible care in the ER. Trying to trick your emergency room doctor or nurse only harms yourself. If you don’t tell the truth about your smoking, medications, etc., your ER doctor could miss something very important that could factor into how you are treated.
  • Be patient. In the past, long wait times were one of the biggest complaints about hospital ERs. Fortunately, they’ve changed considerably over the past 10 years. It used to be that you could plan on an eight-hour wait. These days, the standard is less than an hour, with a goal of 30 minutes. Still, you may have to wait, so try to be patient. People are usually seen in the order that they arrive, unless they are in a life-threatening situation, in which case they may be moved to the front of the line.
  • Trust the ER staff. There’s no doubt that going to the ER can be stressful. But have faith in the people taking care of you. You can also take steps to learn about your local ER. Find out if it is accredited and if the ER doctors are board-certified in emergency medicine. If they are, you can trust that you’re in the care of competent providers and that you’re going to get the respect and care that you want and deserve.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.