PSA from a Former ER Clerk

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my former employer.

As a former ER clerk, there are certain things I wish people knew about our healthcare system. Whether you are coming in for a minor injury or a life-threatening emergency, understanding what to expect and how to communicate with staff can help them provide you with the best care possible. Here are a few of the things you should know..

1 – Your method of transportation does not determine when you will be seen; your medical priority does. Just because you took an ambulance does not necessarily mean you will be seen by a doctor any faster.

2 – The staff cannot provide wait times. Your medical priority determines the order in which you will be seen. It can also change if someone comes in after you that has a higher medical priority.

3 – Seeing a dentist in ER for non-trauma related issues is not free or covered by medicare. It’s the same as going to any other dentist. You will be treated for pain and/or infection then redirected to a clinic.

4 – The wait can be long sometimes but that generally means your life is not in danger. Be grateful you weren’t brought in on a stretcher and seen immediately.

5- Being rude to staff will not make things go any faster. They’re trying their best, be kind.

6 – Edibles are generally more potent than smoking and take longer to kick in. Consume responsibly.

7 – Always carry your medicare card on you. It identifies you and proves that you are covered which will prevent a hefty bill being sent to your house.

8 – The ER is not a hotel. They rarely have pillows and do not have toiletries available. Ideally, you do not stay long enough for these to be necessary.

9 – The ER is not a restaurant either. They do not give food to ambulatory patients who are able to get their own.

10 – Please do not take out your own IV. You will likely just make a mess and possibly panic because of the blood now coming out of your arm.

11 – Do not think because you hear laughter in the back that the healthcare professionals are not working hard; they are. They’re just taking a moment to decompress.

12 – Please refrain from sticking things in your rectum that are not made for that specific purpose. It’ll just turn into a very awkward and embarrassing ER visit.

13 – You have every right to be aware of and advocate for your health but please do not think your google skills are more profound than the medical education the staff have received over years of study and practical experience.

14 – Staff do not give out patient information over the phone unless they call you. It’s an issue of confidentiality as they cannot be sure who is on the other end. If you would like an update, you can speak to the patient directly or come to the ER and be given information by a medical professional with the consent of the patient.

15 – If you are unhappy with the service you are receiving, ask for the Ombudsman’s number. Please refrain from continuous complaining to staff; there’s only so much they can do.

16 – Please remember you are not the only person in ER. There are lots of people with varying degrees of injury/illness. They will get to you as soon as they can.

17 – If you’re going to try a new diet, please speak to a nutritionist or Registered Dietitian so you can do it safely. So many people have come into ER feeling light-headed, weak and/or dizzy with abnormal lab results while specifying that they’re on the newest fad diet.

18 – If you can yell that “you can’t breathe,” you’re breathing is just fine. You need to try to slow your breathing down. 

19 – Do not exaggerate your symptoms in an effort to be seen faster. One, most healthcare professionals can tell and you may actually wait longer or two, they believe you and someone with a legitimately more urgent case will wait longer because of you.

In conclusion, the emergency room can be a stressful and overwhelming environment, both for patients and healthcare professionals. Remember, they are there to help you. By knowing what to expect before you arrive, you can work together so they can provide you with the best care possible and ensure the best possible outcome for your health and well-being.

Calling all current and former ER staff, anything to add/change?

Let me know in the comments!

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Headshot of Sami Grosse

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