What to do and where to go in a medical/trauma emergency?
A medical/trauma emergency is when someone needs help immediately because of an injury or an immediate danger. Even if it is clear that you or your loved one needs care, you may not be sure whether to drive yourself to an emergency department, Urgent care, your primary care physician or call 911.
Choosing the right place can be confusing.
However, there are distinct differences between hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers or Primary Care Physicians, including the level of care that can be provided at each.
When to go to the Emergency Department and call 911
- Certain medical conditions are considered emergencies because they can require rapid or advanced treatments that are only available by ambulance or at a hospital.
- Many people are nervous about calling 911, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should never drive yourself if you are having severe chest pain or severe bleeding, if you feel like you might faint, or if your vision is impaired. When in doubt, please call 911 — what matters most is that you get to the emergency room safely.
- In case of a heart attack or stroke, calling or having someone call 911 for an ambulance is always the right decision. Paramedics often can begin delivering life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.
- Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency department or ambulance include when someone
- is experiencing chest pain
- Is having trouble breathing
- is experiencing seizures
- is choking
- was involved in a serious car accident
- is experiencing weakness/numbness on one side
- has slurred or garbled speech
- fainted or has a change in mental status
- has serious burns
- With a head or eye injury
- has broken bones and dislocated joints
- someone who is unconscious after drinking too much, or an overdose of pills or drugs
- with a fever and a rash
- with pregnancy complications
Talking to the 911 Dispatchers
- Give the operator all the information you can about what the emergency is and how it happened. You should stay calm and speak slowly and clearly so that the 911 operator can understand you. PLEASE stay on the phone and not hang up until the operator says it’s OK. That way, you can be sure that the operator has all the information needed to get you the correct resources fast and update the First Responders if there are any changes.
- When you call 911, the emergency dispatch operator will ask what, where, and who questions such as:
- “What is the emergency?” or “What happened?”
- “Where are you?” or “Where do you live?”
- “Who needs help?” or “Who is with you?”
- You may feel panicky but try to stay in control. The operator needs the answers to these questions to decide what type of emergency workers they need to send and where to send them.
- If someone is unconscious or has stopped breathing, the 911 operator may instruct you on ways to help, such as giving CPR or giving aspirin to someone having chest pain.
When to go to urgent care
- Urgent Cares helps fill a vital gap when you become sick or injured, your regular doctor is unavailable, and you can’t wait for an appointment. Urgent care centers are same-day clinics that can handle various medical problems that need to be treated immediately but are not considered true emergencies.
- Symptoms that can be evaluated and treated at an urgent care clinic include:
- Fever without a rash
- Vomiting or persistent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Moderate flu-like symptoms
- Sprains and strains
- Small cuts that may require stitches
- Before going to urgent care, you may want to contact your primary care doctor’s office in case you can get a same-day appointment. It’s worth calling your primary care doctor because they may be familiar with your health history, including what treatments have worked best in the past and whether you have other medical conditions that need to be considered.
- When you arrive, if urgent care notices a true emergency or feel you need to be seen by the Emergency Department, they will call 911 and an ambulance will be sent.
When to go to your Primary Care Physician
- Your Primary Care Physician is a good option for when you are not feeling well, but it’s not serious enough for the emergency room or urgent care.
- Some examples:
- Painful urination
- Rashes without fever
- Mild flu-like symptoms
- Cough and congestion symptoms
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Eye redness, discharge, or itchiness
When Someone’s Been Hurt
- Don’t try to move a person who is unconscious after having an accident. They may have neck or other spine injuries. Call 911 or get help. If the person is not breathing and you know CPR, have someone else get help while you care for the injured person.
- If the person is bleeding, put pressure on the wound with a cloth or piece of clothing to slow the blood flow. Don’t try to clean the wound, though, as this could do more damage. Wait with the person until help arrives.
- Don’t rush to help someone if you have to put yourself in danger — for example, if the victim is in the middle of a road. Ensure it’s safe before you try to get to the person and help.
- An injured person who is conscious could still be at risk for an internal injury. In some emergencies, people seem fine at first but end up having problems later on. So, it’s a good idea to call 911 or take the person to the emergency department to get checked out. Someone who is disoriented, feels sick or has a headache might have a concussion or other head injury.
How to prepare for a medical visit
- Wherever you go for your medical visit, it’s a good idea to bring a list of medications you take, including over-the-counter medicine, vitamins and supplements, how much you take, and how often. We try not to bring your medications with you. If you have medications, you know how expensive they are and we wouldn’t want them to get lost or contaminated during transit.
- Also keep with you a list of any allergies (including medication allergies) and any previous medical procedures or surgeries you’ve had, including the dates they were performed and the names of the physicians or surgeons who treated you.
What to Bring with you to the Hospital:
- If the illness or injury to you, your family member or friend requires transport to a hospital emergency department, there is no way to predict how long you will have to wait to be seen. It is in your best interest to be prepared for a long wait. Bringing the following with you will help pass the time and make your visit as comfortable as possible
- Bring comfort items, such as, cell phone chargers, glasses, bottled water, hand sanitizer, tissues, and cash for vending machines.
- Bring something to read. It will help pass the time and may relieve some anxiety by taking your mind off your surroundings.
- Bring things for children to do as well, such as crayons, books, toys, and comforting objects, like stuffed animals.
- It is highly recommended that you Do Not Bring any personal valuables with you, such as;
- medicine – It may seem like a great idea, but we know how expensive it could be to replace medicine if it’s lost.
Be prepared for an emergency:
- Ensure that your house number is clearly marked and lit. Consider the following;
- Walk outside and see how visible the number is from the roadway, especially at night.
- Display your house number on each side of your mailbox
- Display your house number with reflective numbers at least four inches tall
- Remove/trim tree limbs or bushes that hide your number
- Calling 911 at night, put on all your outside lights.
- Make sure that First Responders have adequate access to the room where the patient is located
- Remove unnecessary furniture or obstacles before they arrive.
- Secure pets and other animals that may interfere
- Contact a responsible adult for any children in your direct care if you go to the hospital
Preparing Children for an Emergency:
- Don’t be reluctant to talk with your family about the possibility of an emergency. Being prepared for an emergency involves not only planning, but also talking to your children about what to expect. Here are some tips on what to tell your children if the need to call 911 arises:
- Based on their age, explain to your children what an emergency is, in words they can comprehend.
- Teach your children how to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency. (When teaching children to dial 911, keep the phone on the hook or don’t press send)
- Role-play on what to say when calling Emergency 9-1-1.
- Ensure they know the house number and street name (mailing and street addresses may differ).
- Involve your children in the development of your Family Emergency Plan and practice these plans as a family. Teach them how to recognize an emergency.
- Make sure they know what smoke detectors and other alarms sound like.
- Role-play with your children to help them remain calm in emergencies and to practice basic emergency responses such as evacuation routes and Stop, Drop & Roll. Give children exact steps to follow.
- Explain to your children what emergency personnel might arrive to help (firefighters, police officers, paramedics).
- Help your children to memorize important family information. They should memorize their family name, phone number, and address, including your family’s out-of-state contact person.
- Warn children never to touch wires on poles or lying on the ground.
- Make sure each child knows your family’s alternate meeting sites if you are separated in an emergency and cannot return to your home.