Skip to content

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Help Yourself

Tips to help you get the best care in the ER
By Nick Kolakowski
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Emergencies don't upset your life every day, thank goodness, but they do happen. You're slicing tomatoes for dinner, get distracted, and put a gash in your hand that requires stitches. Your tree-climbing kid takes a tumble from a high branch. Or your spouse steps on a rusty nail while cleaning out the garage. These and similar scenarios can mean a trip to the local emergency room. What do you need to know to help save time and get the care you need during your next unexpected ER trip?

Here are some basic tips.

Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

Coping With a Life-Threatening Illness

"I'm sorry, but there's nothing more we can do." No patient wants to hear that. No doctor wants to say it. And with good reason: It isn't true. It is true that in the course of many illnesses, cure ceases to be an option. But no hope of a sure cure does not mean no hope at all. It certainly does not mean there is nothing more to be done. When you receive the information that your illness is serious, a palliative care team can help you handle the news and cope with the many questions and challenges...

Read the Coping With a Life-Threatening Illness article > >

Come prepared. "The most important thing is to come equipped with a good history," Lewis Kohl, MD, chairman of emergency medicine at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., tells WebMD. "Know about all the medications you're taking, and which dose for each."

Wait it out. The average patient spends 3.2 hours in the emergency room. That includes time spent not only with the doctor, but also waiting. Be patient, but if you feel too much time is passing, by all means approach the nurses' station and speak up. "It doesn't hurt to ask questions. ERs do get busy, and people can be lost in the shuffle," says Kohl.

Be alert. Ask questions, get names. If you have a drug or latex allergy, make sure that you say it, over and over. Serious mistakes happen even in the best of situations. If a nurse is about to attach a bag of fluid to your IV or presents a medication for you to take, ask what it is and what it's for. If you know that you are waiting for a test and it's been a while since it was ordered, remind staff that you are waiting.

Power off. Cell phones, BlackBerry handhelds, and the other electronic essentials of life "can wreak havoc with the signal for medical equipment," says Joshua Kugler, MD, chairman of the emergency services department at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., who advocates turning them off while in the treatment area.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing