15 Secrets the Emergency Room Staff Won’t Tell You

This astonishing insider information from doctors, nurses, and paramedics could save your life.

By Ginny Graves from Reader's Digest | March 2010

1. We do it because we care.

We’re the only doctors who will take care of you first and ask questions about payment later, so we end up giving one third of our care for free-and lose about $100,000 of income a year. Yet we still do it. This is the best specialty in the world.”
—Ramon Johnson, MD

Plus: 35 More Secrets the ER Staff Won't Tell You and 10 Extra Emergency Room Secrets

2. Say "Thank You."

In the ER, nurses provide most of the hands-on care. So be nice.
—Donna Mason, RN

3. An ambulance isn't a fancy taxi.

When we arrive, don’t expect us to say hello. We’re focused on the patient. Once he’s stable, then we’ll introduce ourselves.
—Don Lundy, paramedic, Charleston County, South Carolina

4. Arriving by ambulance doesn't mean you'll get a red-carpet escort into the ER.

You’ll get triaged like everyone else, and if you’re not that sick or injured, you’re going to wait.
—Connie Meyer, RN, paramedic

5. Yes, we know you're waiting...and waiting.

Waiting is good. It means you’re not going to die. The person you need to feel sorry for is the one who gets rushed into the ER and treated first.

6. We need you to cooperate.

When we say, "Put on this gown," we mean you should take off the clothes underneath so we can see the area that we need to examine. I once had a woman put the gown on over her clothes and her coat.
—Allen Roberts, MD, emergency physician, Fort Worth, Texas

7. If we tell you to stay in bed, we mean it.

7. 'If we tell you to stay in bed, we mean it. Some medications make you uncoordinated, and we hate it when people fall down.”
-Joan Somes, RN

8. We don't believe you.

One of our favorite lines is "You can’t fix stupidity." If you complain of nausea and then eat a bag of chips, that’s what we’re thinking. 
—Joan Somes, RN

9. We play favorites.

It makes me crazy when visitors wander around talking on their cell phones. You’re being annoying.
—Joan Somes, RN

10. We can only do so much.

Not all ERs are equally equipped to deal with children. Check with your pediatrician to see which ER he or she recommends.
—Joan Shook, MD

11. We're pretty used to people trying to intimidate us.

Standing in the doorway and staring at us while we work won’t help your loved one get treated more quickly.
—Joan Somes, RN

12. Speak up, please.

An ER in a rural area might not have a doctor who is certified in emergency medicine, and the likelihood of having specialists on staff is very low. If you wind up in one, ask to transfer to a hospital that has more resources.
—Robert Solomon, MD, emergency physician, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

13. We don't want you to have to come back.

If you don’t understand what you’re supposed to do when you leave the ER, ask—and ask again if necessary. 
—Linda Lawrence, MD, San Antonio, Texas

14. The 411 on 911.

It’s incredible how many people having a heart attack drive themselves to the emergency room instead of calling 911. That’s just dumb. What are you going to do if you’re driving and your heart stops?
—Arthur Hsieh, paramedic

15. Don't call from your cell phone.

Calling from a landline can save your life because we can pinpoint your location instantly. If you call from a cell phone, we waste a lot of time asking where you are or searching for you. 
—Arthur Hsieh, paramedic

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