When you’re facing a medical emergency, there’s often not much time to think. That’s why it’s important to take the time to prepare for a trip to the ER—before you ever have an emergency. Although it sounds counterintuitive (after all, if you were prepared, would it really be an emergency?), taking a few steps to get ready beforehand can make your life much easier when it’s time to head to the hospital.
Before You Ever Go
Take the time to consider your family’s needs if there’s a medical emergency. Doing the legwork early makes a huge difference when you’re actually facing a crisis.
- Put together an emergency plan. If you have to take one family member to the emergency room, will the kids come with you? Set up a plan where a trusted neighbor or family member can act as a “go-to” person in case you need help in an emergency.
- Keep a running medical history. This step is especially important for anyone who has chronic health conditions or has recently undergone surgery. Make a list of any prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and any recent medical procedures. Also list any allergies, and the number for the family physician. These details can help the ER staff make a more accurate diagnosis.
- Know what necessitates an emergency visit. Post a list of conditions that require emergency treatment on the refrigerator. That quick guide will make an easy reference for anyone in the home, including babysitters or other caregivers.
- Get ready early. If a family member is chronically ill, pack overnight bags for that person and the caregiver. Include a toothbrush, change of clothes, and any “comfort items” like a favorite blanket or pair of slippers. These can come in handy if a patient is admitted to stay overnight.
- Take reasonable steps to prevent accidents. Although every accident and illness isn’t preventable, many common causes of ER trips can be avoided. Be sure to use proper safety equipment for sports and other recreational activities. Keep the pool secure, so that children can’t wander in unsupervised, and store household cleaners and medications securely.
- Get ICE cards for yourself and other family members. These cards contain critical information such as emergency contacts and information about medical conditions (such as diabetes). If you are a family member cannot speak for yourself in a medical emergency, the ICE card can give EMS staff an important tool for delivering the best care possible.
On Your Way
Once you’re headed to the hospital, it’s time to take a few more steps to make your visit less stressful—and the ER staff’s job easier.
- Bring your own entertainment. Even if the hospital consistently has low wait times, chances are, you’ll still spend some time in the waiting room. Take a book or magazine to entertain yourself. Encourage children to bring their favorite reading material, a coloring book, or other items that will promote quiet self-entertainment. Skip the video games and cell phone conversations.
- Call your primary care physician on the way. The ER staff may call to ask for medical records or other patient history. Start the process as soon as possible, and give your doctor time to collect the necessary information.
- Understand how the emergency room works. In the ER, patients are seen based on the urgency of their medical condition. This means that patients who come in after you, but who have more serious medical concerns, may be seen first. The triage system used in the emergency room was designed to ensure that every patient gets timely care. If you’re concerned about wait time, look for a hospital that offers Quick Care bays for non-urgent cases.
For more information about emergency medical care, please contact us at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. Visit us online or call Consult-a-Nurse® at (727) 869-5498 for answers to your questions and free physician referrals.