HOW TO NAVIGATE THE ER
THE ER IS OFTEN A VERY BUSY and crowded place. The beauty of the ER but also what makes it so crazy is that all are welcome, and people are prioritized on the severity of their medical issue. On average, Canadians visit the ER more often and wait longer than people in other Commonwealth countries. So ask your doctor what off-hours coverage their office has; many share an on-call system whereby off-hours and holidays are covered by a doctor. This could save you from hours in the ER. Here, a few more tips.
If you are severely ill, call an ambulance. You may not be safe to drive; paramedics can begin life-saving treatment en route; an ambulance can usually get there faster; and the ambulance will know the best place to go – in many large cities, certain centres are deemed the stroke centre or the heart centre. That said, arriving by ambulance will not get you seen faster if your problem does not warrant it.
Life-threatening problems are seen first, so even painful problems can wait. Triage nurses determine how life-threatening a problem is and assign a triage code. Most ERs, however, have policies to treat pain early. It is important to let the staff know if something changes or gets worse.
Come with or meet an advocate there if you can. If you need something or feel worse, your advocate can speak for you. Communication is key – if you have a question or concern, then ask or say something. Your advocate can also keep track of who you saw and what was said and done.
To ensure the most informed assessment, carry with you a list of your medications, allergies, illnesses and doctors.
Dr. Zachary Levine is an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at McGill University Health Centre and medical correspondent for AM740 (a ZoomerMedia property).