10 Tips to Get You Through a Trip to the ER

Keep a Wallet Card (and Keep It Updated)
Your wallet card doesn’t have to be fancy — just jot down your details on a blank card. ©dolgachov/iStock/Thinkstock

No one plans to go to the ER, but planning ahead can stack the odds in your favor. When you arrive for emergency care, a member of the emergency team, typically a triage nurse, will assess the severity of your condition. For example, you could be assessed with a life-threatening condition requiring immediate care, an injury or illness needing urgent but not lifesaving attention, or, for many patients, a less urgent problem. Be prepared to answer questions about your health history, not just your current symptoms, as part of your ER check-in.

Along with your health insurance card, keep a wallet card with important personal health stats, including current and past health conditions, medications, supplements, allergies, vaccinations, previous hospital stays, previous surgeries and emergency contact information [source: Belchetz].

While it's likely that patients with less urgent needs will be able to verbally communicate their medical histories, you'd be surprised how the anxiety and stress of the situation makes it difficult for many of us to remember details. Obviously, those who are unconscious or in life-threatening situations can't take a minute to tell the medical team about their Cesarean section, cholecystectomy (that's gallbladder removal surgery) or knee replacement.