Let's face it: no one ever wants to visit the Emergency Room. Emergency Services are those things we don't even want to think about until we need them. In fact, most of us hope we never need them!
How many of us stop and think about what a €need€ for emergency services really looks like? How can we tell the difference between an €emergency€ and a need for €urgent care?€
Why are there waiting rooms?
It's no secret that ERs around the country are often overrun, with waiting rooms filled to capacity, and sometimes beyond. But how can people wait for €emergency€ services? The simple answer is, usually they can't. The fact that ER waiting rooms are full is a clear indicator that too many people are seeking emergency services when what they really need are €urgent care€ services.
The difference is not just semantics either. An ER visit will cost much more than a visit to a Primary Care physician or Urgent Care facility. In addition, when people who don't really need ER doctors, nurses, and facilities use them, those people and places are less well prepared to deal with those who do.
When is it really an €Emergency?€
The following situations or conditions require emergency services, delivered at the ER closest to you, or a phone call to 9-1-1:
- Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke
- Severe shortness of breath
- Bleeding that doesn't stop after 10 minutes
- Sudden, severe, especially unexplained pain
- Poisoning (You should first contact your local poison control hotline for home remedies. Since most poisons need to be vomited as soon as possible, steps you take at home could save your life.)
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Major injury, or head trauma
- Coughing up blood
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings
Of course, when in doubt, it's always better to be safe than sorry. For example, many conditions mirror a heart attack? With young children, it can be hard to know how severe a situation is because they are less able to communicate about their symptoms.
When is it NOT an €Emergency?€
The following situations or conditions do not require emergency services, or are better served by a primary care physician or urgent care facility:
- Colds, cough or flu
- Broken bone (You can call your doctor. Unless the bone is showing, he or she may be able to treat you in the office the same day.)
- Minor cuts, where bleeding is controlled.
- Insect bite
- Animal bites
- Swallowed or stuck foreign objects, if breathing and swallowing are possible.
- Nebulizer breathing treatment
Why are you considering emergency services?
Now that you see what types of situations do and don't require emergency services, you'll be better able to decide what to do the next time you're facing a healthcare situation late at night, on the weekend, or when you can't get an appointment right away with your doctor.
Ask yourself why you are considering heading to the ER? Is it out of necessity, or for convenience? If you feel sick or uncomfortable, it's understandable that you would want to get care right away, but will you really feel better sitting in the waiting room of a hospital, full of other sick people?
Also, wouldn't you feel better seeing your own primary care doctor, who knows you, even if you have to wait overnight, or a day or two?
The bottom line is this: Before deciding to use emergency services, think carefully about whether you really need them. Taking the few moments to ask yourself these questions can save you time, money, and considering the comfort level of most hospital waiting rooms, added discomfort, as well!