How to be an empowered patient in an emergency room - WFSB 3 Connecticut

How to be an empowered patient in an emergency room


The following tips were provided by emergency medical staff at Hartford Hospital to help speed up a patient's visit when going to the emergency room:

Before Arrival

It is important for you to prepare for the unexpected emergency and have the following documents ready to go with you when you need to go to the emergency department.

1) Your medical information sheet or folder

You should prepare a medical information sheet or a folder with all of your medical information in it, that is ready and that you can take with you to the emergency department.

Your medical information should include the following;


Medical conditions (ex. diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma)

Past medical history (ex. heart attack, diverticulitis, deep venous thrombosis)

Past surgical history (ex. appendectomy, cardiac bypass surgery, hysterectomy)

Medications - include all medication, supplements and vitamins, remember to include medications that you may take only occasionally like Viagra, prednisone or chemotherapy


Copy of EKG

Doctors phone numbers and address if possible

Primary care doctor phone number

Specialists (ex cardiologist, surgeon, pulmonologist, oncologist)

Closest relative contact info

Religious affiliation

2) Identify someone, a relative or close friend, who can accompany you to the emergency department

A visit to the emergency department can be anxiety provoking or scary, not to mention the fact that you might be really ill, injured or in a lot of pain. It will be helpful to have someone with you who can be an advocate for you, help you remember things to tell the doctors or nurses and to listen to all of the information that is told to you. Later, they will be able to remind you of things that were told to you that you might have forgotten.

Upon Arrival

1) Be clear and direct about your condition or why you need to be seen in the emergency department. This is especially true if you feel really sick or are in significant pain.

2) Be honest about your medical history and what is bothering you presently. It is important for the doctors and nurses to know everything related to your visit. All information will be kept strictly confidential and there will not be any judgment. The caregivers need to know whether you are pregnant, used drugs earlier, take Viagra, etc

While You Are Waiting

1) Bring something to read or do.

This will help you to pass the time. You will probably be in the emergency department for a couple of hours.

2) Question all medications and interventions.

Make sure that the medication, treatment or intervention that is about to occur is meant for you. You should ask your nurse or doctor every time you are given a medication or treatment. This will help to ensure that you receive only the treatments meant for you. Many emergency departments are large and there may be another patient in the ED at the same time with a name that is similar to yours.

3) Make sure that all care givers have washed their hands or changed their gloves before caring for you.

This is for your protection. It is part of their job and no one will be offended if you ask them this.

4) Let the nurse or doctor know if anything changes with your condition.

5) Try to keep your own situation in perspective.

If you are suffering a life threatening illness or injury then you will get immediate attention. On the other hand, if you are not that ill or injured, someone else in the emergency department may be sicker than you. The most acutely ill or injured patients are given priority.

When You Leave

1) You may ask to speak with Case Coordinator or Social Worker.

If you think you will need services when you get home, such as a visiting nurse or a home health aid, then ask to speak to the case coordinator or the social worker. These people are awesome resources for helping you to connect to services that are available in your community.

2) Ask for a printed copy of your discharge instructions.

You should receive a printed copy of your discharge instructions. The nurse will most likely review these instructions with you before you leave. You should also read them before you leave the emergency department, make sure that you understand all of the instructions and ask any questions before you leave.

3) Take your medications as prescribed.

Taking your medications as prescribed can help avoid an unnecessary visit to the emergency department in the near future. Do not forget to ask the doctor about prescription costs.

4) Follow-up with your Primary Care Doctor or whomever is recommend.

Follow-up appointments are recommended for specific reasons and should be done in the time that was recommended. Proper and timely follow-up may also help to avoid an unnecessary visit in the near future.

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