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?
"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...
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
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
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.