When an emergency arises, are you, patient or caregiver, prepared to visit the Emergency Room?
“a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action.” (Dictionary.com)
By definition, an emergency steers us away from our routine and forces us to alter our anticipated course of action. Can we count on our level-headed caregiving thinking then? How can patients prepare themselves for a visit to ER?
When my father suddenly told my mother one early morning that he needed to go to the hospital, my mother simply said, “Ok.” She proceeded to get dressed, got her purse and headed out to the car on their driveway. Surely, the only thing on her mind was getting Dad to the ER as soon as possible – talk would have to come later. Dad was having what turned out to be a 5-bypass heart attack.
When he again announced that he needed an ambulance at 12:30am while I was visiting my parents 20 years later, we knew better than to question him. My mother and I gathered our purses and car keys, then we followed the ambulance to ER. Mother and I talked about Dad’s hip pain worsening and hoping that the medical staff would find its cause, get rid of it and release him. We talked about his recently diagnosed multiple myeloma and about his failing kidneys, but not about much else. It was, by that time, after 1 am and we were running on adrenaline and coffee.
Upon being examined, my father was asked what medications he was taking, dosages, symptoms and a myriad other questions that Dad could mostly answer himself. Mostly. Dad had taken his health seriously after his heart attack and remarkably, maintained a sharp mind through medical emergencies. None of us, however, remembered medication strengths very well, as he was taking about 14 pills per day then. The ER staff would have to make do with our faulty memory.
Today, this scenario, as well as complications and dangers posed by giving the nurses inaccurate medical information, can be avoided by preparing ourselves for a visit to the ER before we actually have to go. We can also have forms filled out, doctors (with their contact details) and medications listed, and other necessary information ready for the ER staff to better help the patient once he or she arrives at the hospital.
Dr. David Seaberg, President of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), has implemented a program to encourage families to prepare themselves before visiting ER.
In the event that the patient cannot provide a complete medical history, arrives unconscious, or is unavailable when a child needs treatment, the forms below can be found in the website and filled out prior to arriving at ER.
“These forms are here to help you get the care you need in a life-threatening situation.”
- Cell phone identification
- Consent to treat form
- Emergency health info for children with special health needs form
- Medical history form
Cell Phone Identification – ICE
“ACEP recommends that people with cellular phones add “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) entries into their cell phone address books. This stands for “In Case of Emergency.” Medical professionals recognize this acronym and use it to notify the person’s emergency contacts and to obtain critical medical information if a patient arrives at an emergency department unconscious or unable to answer questions. This can give doctors and nurses vital information to provide better and more effective care.
It is recommended that people save at least two numbers and be sure that both people are familiar with their medical history. They can be saved as “ICE — 1” and “ICE — 2” or with names such as “ICE — Mom.” In all cases, the “ICE” designation should come first.”
ER101.org has additional information on what to expect once you arrive at ER, which can calm your nerves and reduce worry. Information includes:
- Where you should go
- Medical tests
- Admission to the hospital
- ER checklists
Dr. Seaberg answers some questions on preparing for a visit to ER in a video below.
Do take time to fill out the forms listed above and enter your ICE into your cell phone today. Better to be ready for anything – we just cannot predict when those emergencies will make an appearance.
Be prepared before you go to ER!