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What ER Docs Want You to Know

What ER Docs Want You to Know

Accidents happen. Here's how to make the best of the emergency room.

No one wants to end up in the emergency room. But, sometimes, accidents happen.

These tips from emergency room doctor Jonathon Pangia, DO, from Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 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.

Dr. Pangia suggests keeping a list of any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications or supplements—including names, dosages and what you’re taking them for—on your phone. He also recommends including any chronic conditions you have.

“We need to get the most accurate information as quickly as possible, so if there’s a concise up-to-date list that we can look at quickly, it is extremely helpful,” says Pangia.

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.

“If you’re successful in tricking your emergency room doctor or nurse, it’s to your harm,” says Pangia. “If you don’t tell me you’re smoking, I can’t analyze the true risk of you having a heart attack. If you don’t tell me that you’re supposed to be on diabetes medication, and for some reason I can’t figure out that you should be, I’m going to miss something very important that could factor in to how I’m going to evaluate and treat you.”

Be patient
In the past, long wait times were one of the biggest complaints about hospital emergency departments. But according to Pangia, they’ve changed considerably over the past 10 years. “It used to be that you could plan on an eight-hour wait. These days, across the country, the standard is less than an hour, with a goal of 30 minutes,” says Pangia.

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 emergency department can be stressful. But “have faith in the people taking care of you,” says Pangia.

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.”

See more from Dr. Pangia:
What information should I give in the emergency room?
How long is the average patient emergency room wait?

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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