6 Emergency Room Secrets

hospital doctor

Medically reviewed in March 2022

No one looks forward to a trip to the ER. And as an ER doctor, there’s nothing better than making a patient’s diagnosis and seeing her feel better after treatment. But you may be surprised to learn there are a few little things you can do to make the experience a little more bearable and, depending on your condition, speed you on your way:

1. Don’t be shy about your problem.
You will not embarrass an ER doctor or nurse. We have literally seen it all and heard it all, so don’t be afraid to open up. Knowing all the details of your symptoms, when the condition started and what may have brought it on helps us give you the very best care.

2. Ask before you pee. 
If you have to urinate, check with the nurse first to see if we’ll need a sample. I frequently have patients on whom I want to check a urine test for infection, pregnancy or some other reason, but then find out they just urinated. This means we (including you) spend another two hours waiting until you have to go again. Save yourself the time. When you feel the urge, ask a nurse or wait until you’ve seen the doctor.

3. Do not eat before you come to the ER. 
Some procedures require sedation—and that means not eating four to six hours prior. Obviously this can’t always be controlled, but if you suspect you may need the ER, don’t have a snack before you head out the door. And once you get there, skip the vending machine. I have literally had patients sit there waiting for time to pass just so I can sedate them and treat their condition or injury.

4. Bring your medication list. 
Some drugs cannot be combined, so before we begin treatment we need to know what you take, including any supplements. Time spent tracking down your meds can also delay your care.

5. If you’d like privacy with your doctor, just ask. 
You can always ask family to leave the room. But if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, here’s your exit strategy: go to the bathroom (ask the nurse to take you) and tell him or her that you want them out but are afraid to say anything. Whenever a patient makes this request (the nurse will discreetly let me know), I ask family to leave and I’ll take the blame. That way, patients get the privacy they need without blowback.

6. Being nice will get you everywhere.
It’s hard to be kept waiting, especially if you’re physically uncomfortable and worried about your health. Understandably, you may have a short fuse. Which is why a patient who is nice and appreciative can be the exception to the rule—and inspire staff to go the extra extra mile.

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