10 Emergency Room Etiquette Tips You Need to Know

A visit to your local emergency room usually isn’t a happy time. Whether you’re worried about the health of your child, your spouse or yourself, everyday stress and anxiety often increase with uncertainty. Add in possible long waiting times or communication barriers, and even the kindest person may find her nerves fraying. However, practicing basic emergency room etiquette can go a long way toward helping everyone around you keep emotions under control.

1. Be patient.

Your emergency room visit may take an hour, or it may take even longer. Your wait time will depend on the severity of you or your loved one’s injury or illness, as well as those of everyone else waiting. At River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, we have to treat the most critical situations, such as stroke, first, and we have no control over who’s coming in or how quickly they need to be seen. When you are in the ER, wait patiently and know that we are doing our best to see you as fast as we can.

2. Make sure you need an emergency room visit.

If you aren’t sure if it’s a medical emergency and it’s during daytime hours on a weekday, call your primary care provider or pediatrician’s office before driving to the ER. If your doctor’s office is closed, you can always give us a call to check if you should come in tonight or wait to see your doctor in the morning.

3. Come prepared to wait (and bring a phone charger).

If you’re heading to the ER from your home, grab a bag of things you might need for a long wait, such as:

  • A warm sweater or wrap if you get cold easily
  • Headphones, if you plan to watch videos on a phone or tablet
  • List of medications you or your loved one is taking (No time to write it down? Throw all the prescription bottles in the bag.)
  • Phone and device chargers
  • Snacks
  • Something to read or watch
  • Your ID, insurance card, debit or credit card, and any other pertinent medical or contact information

4. Don’t come alone.

If you’re sick or injured enough to need emergency care, it’s important to have someone by your side. Whether this person is a friend, a designated healthcare proxy, a parent or a spouse, you need someone who can assist you if you’re too sick to understand what’s happening or will be too sedated to drive home after the visit.

5. Follow general hospital visitor guidelines.

You can usually find hospital visitor guidelines online. At River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, we ask that you are dressed appropriately with a shirt and shoes (presuming the emergency allows it). Don’t plan to smoke on the hospital campus, including in your car, or to vape anywhere indoors. Try to avoid unnecessary noise—e.g., step outside for personal phone calls and watch videos with headphones or on mute with screen captions turned on.

6. Refrain from wearing perfume or heavy scents.

If you aren’t rushing to the ER from a night on the town, please skip applying perfume or scented lotion before heading to the ER. Many sick patients have sensitivities to strong scents, and others could have allergies. Just a spritz could make someone sitting next to you feel worse, so please, stick to unscented toiletries if possible.

7. Mask up and cover your cough.

If you or your loved one is visiting the ER for a respiratory condition, fever or other possibly contagious illness, please wear a mask to limit the spread of disease. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after. If possible, sit at a distance from other patients to prevent exposure. Remember, wearing masks even if you aren’t sick is a great way to guard yourself against any viruses.

8. Respect other patients’ privacy.

We get it, hospital waiting rooms can be boring, but now’s not the time to make TikToks or stream live from Instagram. Other patients have the same right to privacy that you do, and posting videos or pictures of them is not OK. However, you may find it helpful to record your discussions with a medical provider so you can reference them later when you’re less overwhelmed. Just make sure to let staff know that you are recording them before you do.

9. Be polite.

ER employees and EMTs in the ambulance understand you’re going through a stressful time. A medical emergency is not a license to be rude to a clerk, nurse, technician or doctor, and it isn’t going to get you seen any sooner. Politeness is the key to basic emergency room etiquette, and it goes a long way to making everyone’s experience less stressful.

10. Talk to us.

At River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, we are here to help you. During an emergency room visit if you don’t understand what is going on, ask us. If you don’t understand your care instructions or what medications you need after you leave, we will help explain them to you. We may not always be able to tell you exactly how much longer you will have to wait, but we will always be glad to give you an estimate. When conditions change, such as if the person you brought in is suddenly getting worse, please let us know immediately!

If you need emergency care, River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic is here 24/7/365. Come see us today.

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