10 Tips For An Effective Emergency Room Visit


October 31, 2022

If you have to go to the ER, here are 10 tips for an effective Emergency Room visit and how to prepare in advance.

1. Know what symptoms to report

When your loved one is in a medical crisis, your ability to observe symptoms carefully and report accurately might be, quite literally, lifesaving. But it is a challenge to function clearly in a time of crisis. Below is a list that will help you remember what to look for during a crisis. You may want to read it ahead of time, and then store a copy in your patient file for later reference.

  • What time did the problem start?
  • What was he/she doing when the problem began?
  • Do you know or suspect what might have caused the problem?
  • What was the first symptom that you noticed?
  • What other symptoms/complaints do you remember?
  • Did the symptoms come on abruptly or gradually?
  • Was he/she given any medication or medical treatment just before the problem started? If so, what was it?
  • Did the patient say anything about how he/she felt when the problem started and/or as it progressed? What was it?
  • Does he/she have a history of this kind of problem?
  • What did you do to try to help him/her between the time the problem arose and the time you arrived in the emergency room or the doctor’s office? Did something work well? Did something seem to make things worse?

2. Have your “Caregiver Go Bag” ready

Expecting parents often prepare a bag in advance to take with them in case they have to get to the hospital quickly. Having a similar bag for you and your loved one in case of an emergency will make sure you have what you need when making a trip to the emergency room. Items we recommend packing: phone charger, change of clothes, healthy snacks, and anything that may help pass the time during long waits (books, a deck of cards). Can you think of anything else you’d want to pack?

3. Introduce yourself

Let the staff know who you are.

4. Have your information ready

Make sure to have your updated documents with you. Keep a copy of these in your Caregiver Go Bag. What should go in the Patient File?

  • Care recipient’s medical history
    • Diagnosis
    • Physician Contact Information
    • Allergies
    • Health history (e.g. surgeries, other medical conditions)
  • Medication List
    • Medication List
    • Medication Log
  • Insurance Information
    • Private medical insurance
    • Prescription plan
    • Medicare/Medicaid
    • Long-term care insurance
    • Dental and Vision Insurance
  • Legal Documents
    • Living Will
    • Durable power of attorney for Health Care (also known as a Health Care Proxy)
    • Power of Attorney for Finances
    • Contact information for care recipient’s lawyer

5. Communicate needed information

Provide documentation you’ve brought and answer any questions.

6. Stay calm when you’re with your loved one and staff

Your loved one may already be nervous or scared, and that’s on top of the already hectic energy of an ER. Stay calm.

7. Stay out of the way and be patient

Things are fast-paced in the emergency room. Don’t get in the way of staff doing their job.

8. Ask for updates!

Don’t hesitate to ask for updates.

9. Stay in touch with others

You may want to provide updates to other family and friends so they know what is going on. Did you remember to pack your phone charger in your Caregiver Go Bag?

10. Express your thanks!

Those in the emergency room have a tough job. Show them you’re thankful for the care they are providing to your loved one.

Is It Time To Go To The Emergency Room?

When is a crisis a crisis? When should you call someone else for help? Get help when your loved one is in some kind of medical distress and you are not sure what to do. Call 911 or an ambulance if the person you are caring for:

  • Is unconscious
  • Has unexplained chest pain or pressure
  • Is having trouble breathing or is not breathing at all
  • Has no pulse
  • Is bleeding severely
  • Is vomiting blood or bleeding from the rectum
  • Has fallen and may have broken bones
  • Has had a seizure
  • Has a severe headache and/or slurred speech
  • Has pressure or severe pain in the abdomen that does not go away
  • Is unusually confused or disoriented

Call For Help If

  • Moving the person could cause further injury
  • The person is too heavy for you to lift or help
  • Traffic or distance would cause a life-threatening delay in getting to the hospital

This is a list of general issues to consider. For more specific information, contact your physician. 

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