Emergency Rooms Are Not Created Equal

Don’t Be Caught Off Guard If You Should Need An ER

This Isn’t Just a Message for Boomers, It’s For Everyone of All Ages

Photo by Pixabay (Pexels)


I had to take a detour from finishing my blog for the month of February, American Heart Month, due to a medical emergency with my BoomerGuy.  Instead, hopefully you will find this installment helpful.  I will provide the final blog edition of American Heart Month in our next posting.

At some point in our life, most of us will probably need to use an emergency room, or at least at a minimum, an urgency care facility.

Such was the case with my BoomerGuy just recently.  He had a medical emergency that required the use of an ER.  Because we were out of the area and it was urgent that he seek immediate help, we ended up going to an ER affiliated with a hospital different from our preferred.   Here is what we learned from this experience.  

Living in southern California, we are subject to all kinds of external influences that can possibly cause delays, such as weather and traffic.  Certainly not dissimilar to other urban areas.  We were about 90 minutes away from our hospital of choice, and due to the severity of his condition, we decided on a hospital ER located much closer.  We knew the hospital was great but had never checked out the ER.  What we encountered was a less than desirable experience.

Who would think you should have to physically go in and check out an ER before you might need it.  TRUST ME, you should definitely do it.  In some instances it could be the difference between life and death.  Thank goodness that wasn’t ours, but it delayed the healing time for my BoomerGuy.  

Emergencies can strike anytime.  Based on our experience, here are 7 critical things to look for in a quality ER.

Please note:  these suggestions apply to those of us who have several different ER locations from which to choose, and not necessarily to those who live in a smaller community or rural setting with more limited resources.   Also, this information is intended for voluntary use and access of an ER and not for life threatening circumstances which require calling 911.  Nonetheless, do your homework.

LOCATE YOUR CLOSEST ER.  It’s the most obvious, because time is of the essence.  If you’re not at home, just moved, vacationing, own a second home and don’t know your surrounds, take the time to locate the nearest hospital and emergency room, and try to have someone on-hand to drive you, unless you’re going by ambulance.  

EMERGENCY ROOM FACILITIES.  Before you encounter anyone inside the ER, you’ll encounter the facility.  Medical facilities have to meet certain standards.  If you have a choice of locations, be observant and look to make sure the entrance and the waiting room are clean and orderly and check out the staff to ensure they are organized and caring for the patients in wait.    If your facility falls short, this is a red flag and perhaps there is another option you might wish to choose.  

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EMERGENCY ROOM WAIT TIMES.  Most people expect to wait once they arrive at the ER, unless it’s absolutely critical.  Before you need such services, look for an ER that can give you an idea of their current and expected wait times.  You can call or in these days of the internet look online to see their busiest times and work around them if you are able.

OVERCROWDING.  We were told by the ER staff, that because of the pandemic, people are now substituting the ER for their primary care physician.  People couldn’t get in to see their doctor during the years of COVID, so now they are using the ER for their routine medical care, not just emergency needs.  As a result, the ER’s are packed, or can be.  We encountered this very issue and due to the large influx of patients, there were no chairs available in the ER.  We had to sit outside in the cold and wait to be called.  

If you have a choice of ER’s and or Urgent Care Facilities, I would highly recommend checking out their capacities during different times of the day.  A simple drive by can tell you a great deal.

RESEARCH THEIR REPUTATION.  A great hospital doesn’t mean a great emergency room.  There is nothing like word-of-mouth reviews.  We all look at reviews before we purchase something, you should do the same with your ER.  Look online for testimonials that experienced the facility and staff first-hand.  Look for an emergency room that is reputable with a highly professional staff and testing facilities.

As mentioned due my husband’s condition, we opted for an ER much closer than our primary hospital.  We knew the hospital was stellar, but the ER was horrible.  After experiencing a 4 ½ hour wait sitting outdoors, we checked ourselves out and drove to our primary care hospital where we received the professional care that we thought we should have received at the first ER.  LESSON LEARNED!

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EMERGENCY ROOM PERSONNEL AND SERVICES.  You should expect to find medical physicians and specialty trained emergency nurses and staff in the ER.  In too many instances, you can be shuffled off to physician assistants or students in training, thereby not getting the best of care.  You will also want the convenience of on-site imaging capabilities such as x-ray and CT scan along with laboratory services.  Having these on hand saves time and eliminates additional travel.

EMERGENCY ROOM AND HOSPITAL SERVICES.  Again, if you are able, make sure the ER you choose has the right hospital support care for your health needs.  For example, my BoomerGuy is under the care of a cardiologist, so we choose to go to an ER that is part of a hospital with critical cardiac care support.  Whether it be orthopedic, oncology, GI, pediatric or other specific needs, try to select your ER with a hospital providing those special care services, just in case you are admitted and need them as back up.

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Health is an aspect of life for which no one should have to compromise.  Choosing the right emergency room is more than choosing the most convenient one.  Do your research ahead of time.  If you travel between places like me, map out which ER is the best for your particular needs.  After all, it’s your health, well-being and peace of mind.

We know our local, preferred hospital and ER are the best.  Don’t settle for second best.  An ounce of prevention is all it takes.  You’ll be thankful you did if the time should arise, and you have to make a quick decision.  

Stay relevant, stay informed and keep moving forward, no matter what curves life throws at you.  

Your Number One BoomerGal, Connie, with a THANKFUL HEART and many thanks to our local and nationally recognized hospital.

Disclaimer:  these views are strictly personal based on real life experience, and should not be construed as opinions endorsed by or scientific evidence from any professional healthcare body. 

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