10 Things to Bring with you to the ER

It’s the evening and you feel like crap. You know the night is going to end with you going to the ER, but still you delay. Depending on where you live, a trip to the ER can mean waiting 2 hours or waiting 12. Not to mention, depending on why you are going in, you may even get admitted!

So now, in an effort to delay the inevitable, you try to decide what you should bring to the hospital: the practical, the necessary, and the helpful.

Well worry not my friend, here is a comprehensive list of everything you need to survive your upcoming trip to the hospital.

  1. A list of your medications and your entire medical history

One of the things the ER usually asks for is for all the meds, both prescription and otc, that you are taking on a regular basis. This is so that if you are admitted, they can get you the meds you needs, as well as so they can rule out drug interactions, or determine if your symptoms are the result of side effects.

Making sure they get an accurate list is pretty important, and in the moment it can be difficult to remember specifics, especially exact dosages.

The doctors are also going to need to know if you’ve had any surgeries, if you have any conditions that might be affecting you, and also any serious conditions you have had in the past. It’s amazing how much doctors ask you to remember off the top of your head, despite the fact that they have access to a computerized version of all the information they are asking you for. Never count on doctors to read your medical history. I have almost been injected with medication that I told them I was allergic too when I arrived. Despite it being written in large letters across my file, the doctors somehow all failed to miss it. It was only my own attention to detail and need to ask questions that prevented an unfortunate incident.

  1. Any meds you might need in the next three days.

Although they will make a point to ask you your meds, don’t expect to actually get any of them. It doesn’t matter how long you are stuck at the ER, they never seem to remember that they don’t exist in a timeless void. No matter how much it might feel like it. If you get admitted, eventually they will give you your daily meds, but as long as you are in the ER, don’t count on it. Even if you do get admitted, it can take a few days for them to sort things out with the pharmacy.

Note: While you are in the ER, make sure to confirm with the nurses that it is ok to take your daily medication to make sure that they won’t interact with some of the courses of action they plan to take.

  1. Overnight Kit

Trips to the ER can last a while, and if you get admitted they can last even longer. An overnight kit helps you feel less like death. You can brush your teeth, your hair, and put on deodorant. Never underestimate the power that a little grooming can have in how you feel. Also if it turns out your nurse or doctor is a dreamboat, you can make sure that at the worst possible time, they see you in the best possible light.

That said, don’t feel bad if you don’t have the energy for all that, you are in the hospital. It’s perfectly ok to feel too tired or sick to groom.

  1. A book, kindle, magazine, sketchpad, gameboy, etc.

Expect to spend several hours by yourself, whether in the waiting room or in your room when you finally get sent to the back. Even when you are sick, it can get remarkably boring being stuck there and having something to entertain you can make the experience more bearable. Bear in mind however, that whatever you bring as entertainment not be too cumbersome, loud, or difficult to operate. You can expect to be moved around a lot while you are there. From room to room, to x-ray, etc. You might not have a lot of room to set up either.

If you get admitted, having some form of entertainment can be extremely useful here too. Those days forced in bed with an IV in your arm can be long and seem to drag on forever. Many hospitals in Canada charge you money to connect the tv, so having your computer can be handy here. Make sure however that you have some movie files already on your computer since many hospitals block streaming sites.

  1. Pyjamas – preferably a nightgown

Hospital gowns are legendary for their inability to fully hide anything. What they don’t tell you is that they can also be remarkably uncomfortable. The string ties in the back can be hard, the material is heavy, and I find the neck hole presses uncomfortably against your neck. If you are larger in size, then they can be even worse.

The reason they usually put you in the gowns however is because they provide easy access to the parts of your body that may be bothering you. One solution I have found however, is that if I bring a nightgown with me, I can usually avoid having to wear one of their gowns.

While you are in the ER you are also going to be spending a lot of time sitting in chairs and lying on gurneys and beds. It helps a lot to be wearing something comfortable.

  1. Your smartphone, your charger, and headphones

A lot of people bring their phone, but forget to bring a charger. You will use up a huge chunk of your battery while waiting to see a doctor: browsing Facebook, checking email, playing games. A phone is also important for calling your ride, or updating anyone as to your condition. Not to mention ordering a pizza when the hospital food proves inedible.

Headphones also make it possible for you to listen to music and tune out the sounds of the hospital. You can also listen to a podcast or an e-book to help pass the time. Just be prepared to jump when the nurses or doctors try to get your attention.

Phones can also be useful when doctor’s are ignoring you. I remember one trip to the ER where I felt as though I was being completely ignored. I called my GI and he was able to intervene and get my case switched over to the GI team under his supervision. If that hadn’t happened, it is possible I would have been sent home while my pancreatic enzymes were trying to digest my liver.

  1. A change of underwear and a pair of socks. 

Be prepared to stay awhile. Also the plastic on the beds in the hospital makes for a decent amount of sweating. You will appreciate having a change of underthings, to help you feel clean.

The socks are to help keep you warm. Whether you are in PJs, your clothes, or a hospital gown, they usually try to keep the ER cold. This helps curb the spread of germs. Also if you are given an IV, you are going to feel even colder since the liquid is colder than your body temperature.

  1. A notebook and pen

You want to be prepared to write down any drug induced inspirations, write down your blog URL for any interested nurses and patients, and to take down the names of any doctors and nurses for your future book exposé. A pen and paper is also handy to have to keep track of any symptoms or questions that come to mind, that you want to discuss with your doctor.

You might be asked to keep track of your bowel movements or how often your pain spikes, or any other such information. At times like that having a pen is useful.

  1. The patience of a kindergarten school teacher

Have I mentioned you will be waiting a while? You will also likely find yourself answering the same question several times. But the fun just starts there. Be prepared to have the staff bring you food when you’ve been told not to eat anything, for every meal to include food you mentioned you were allergic too. Also, be prepared to have to remind the staff of what you are allergic too multiple times, sometimes as the needle is about to plunge into your IV.

If you are admitted be prepared to wait, maybe even hours, for a bed to open up. Try not to think too hard about the fact that the bed might only be available because someone died in it. I mean, it is completely possible that they sent someone home at 3 am right?

  1. Bribe money and coffee for the Nurses

The Nurses control the ER, insofar as anyone does. They are made of magic. Get the nurses on your side and they will fight for you. A good nurse can get you meds you need before you see the doctor (if she is willing to fight on your behalf with whichever doctor is on call to get them to agree to write a script).

More than that, nurses have access to warm blankets, drinks, and even food. If you ask nicely, they might even give them to you.

In all seriousness, you don’t have to bribe the nurses, but it is a good idea to keep them on your good side. Don’t yell at them. Don’t act superior or condescending. Don’t treat them like your own personal maid. Keep in mind, that the nurses control the meds, how soon you get seen, and exactly where the shot goes in…

10 Things to Bring with you to the ER

12 thoughts on “10 Things to Bring with you to the ER

  1. 1

    For those in the USA, one must also bring your ID (drivers license), and your health insurance card, and any pharmacy insurance card, and of course your credit card or a few hundred dollars for the deductible on your fees that aren’t covered by your insurance.
    And of course you need the name, address, and phone number of each of your doctors, friends, boss, and next of kin.

      1. Ania Onion Bula

        Actually in Canada you have to bring your health card as well.

        Same here. A health card is a must for any doctor visit, let alone ER (but they can use your ID too, it’d just take a bit longer).

  2. 2

    You can order food like pizza to ER? I’ve never even thought about doing that!
    Our ER was never nasty (and I don’t have special dietary needs), but I wish I’d thought about that before. I’ve never seen anyone else do it either, so maybe it’s forbidden. Oh well, something to remember for next time!

  3. 3

    This is excellent.

    Because I’m caretaker and healthcare manager to my partner who has memory issues (and I’ve got too much going on to remember every damn thing), I created a spreadsheet for us to share that covers all his medical stuff — doctor and practice names and phone numbers and bus routes (if applicable), pharmacy information, drugs (prescribed and not) and their dosages, and so on. It’s been a real spoon-saver all around.

  4. 4

    I now have an app called MediSafe, which lists all my meds and it’s been so useful when I’m asked “And what meds are you taking?”.

    I never thought about having a list of my diagnosis. I’m usually cagey about that because when they hear “anxiety” it’s like suddenly it’s all about “hysterical woman being hysterical”.

  5. 5

    I tend to leave out depression and anxiety for the same reason. I just tell them that I’m on x drug and leave it at that. It sucks, but you’re right. Mental health issues end up being blamed for anything wrong with you regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

  6. 6

    Always interesting to hear the patient’s end of this. I’m an EMT, and I think I’ll have to start encouraging people to bring their meds to the ER… it’s not standard practice here, but it sounds like this could save some hassle for everyone.

    Your ID, though, is not as essential as you might think, at least in Canada. If you’re conscious enough to state your name and birthday they’ll usually find you within half a minute. It only saves much time if you’ve moved recently or are visiting from out of province.

    The phone charger thing, that’s definitely true. When I last went to ER as a patient, I brought a phone, a charger, a book, an ebook reader, a charger for that, snacks…

  7. 7

    I take a whole damn pharmacy of drugs, so I carry a list in my wallet. I’ve had a few ER visits for various things in the past half-decade. When they ask “what drugs are you taking” and I whip out my list, they are invariably delighted.

    Alas, most of those ER visits have been by ambulance (which is an expensive way to get to the hospital in the US), but ambulance patients get priority, so I’ve never had to wait very long in the ER for myself. I’ve waited for several consecutive forevers for family members, however; something to keep one entertained is very important, if for no other reason than to keep your mind from spiralling on the “what-if”s.

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