Things not to bring to the ER

I know, I know, the more information the doctor has, the better.  But with that in mind,  there are some things I’d just as soon not see in the ER.  Here’s a partial list:

The snake that bit you.  Despite what the books say, most of us are just, plain scared of them.  Irrational?  Probably.  But phobias are phobias.  So, in America at least, we know that pit vipers make two holes, and everyone gets the same kind of antidote.  Coral snakes make different wounds.  Leave it at home and have it mounted by a taxidermist.  In other parts of the world, this rule probably doesn’t apply.

Things you coughed up.  I promise I’ll believe you if you say you coughed up:  blood, pus, bits of tissue or even a fur-ball.  Odds are, you’ll cough it up again.

Things you passed in your stool.  If it’s blood, I’ll believe you and blood will probably remain when we examine you.  If it’s anything else, it’s fine to leave it at home.  Preferrably, disposed of properly, along with the thing you coughed up.

Unless you were, heaven forbid, the victim of an assault, don’t present us with your underwear with some questionable contents.  Describe it.  Don’t bring it.

Your MRI.  We can’t read them.  You don’t want us to read them.  Tell me you had one, that’s enough.  MRI packets are heavy.  I might strain my back lifting it.  So might you!

Your disability papers.  I’ll give you a little time off if needed.  I won’t fill out the disability paperwork.  Not now, not ever unless I change jobs and lives.

Your wife and girlfriend at the same time. Always a prescription for trouble.

Your husband and boyfriend at the same time.  Ditto above.

Your pet in need of veterinary care.  People may be animals, but I’m not likely to repair that open fracture or treat heart-worms.

Your video-camera capable cell-phone.  Please, don’t film the patients.  And don’t film your friends.  Eventually, you’ll be drunk or asleep also.

Any large container of toxic chemicals.  Unless you’re hoping to make the news by incapacitating everyone in the emergency department. 

Just a few little guidelines I thought of at work today!

Have a great day! 

God bless and guide our president elect, Sen. Barack Obama.

56 thoughts on “Things not to bring to the ER

  1. Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind…not that I’ve ever taken anything like that to an ER. How about a bag with the medications you take if you have chemobrain and so many medications you can’t remember them all? Is that stupid?

  2. Heh, all good points. If I could only say one thing differently though, if you do have imaging on a CD that is relevant to your case, it probably doesn’t hurt to bring the CD in. You should be able to get the radiologist to load it and took a look without breaking your back, I think =)

    -Scrub Notes

  3. Scrub Notes, excellent point. If a radiologist will look at it, you’re better off. If not, I’m sure no radiologist.

    Emmy, bags of medicine, or lists of medicines, are always welcome and desirable. Except for those few who bring them like a bag of snacks and consume them during their wait!

  4. Anything to make a physician’s job easier. As YOUR employer, patients should bring whatever they like, request what THEIR choices are, and simply have you do as WE pay you to do. “First do no harm” refers to us, not you.

  5. Emmy-

    I’d like to suggest that you bring a list of meds and leave the bag at home. There’s nothing worse then having to go through a bag of 20 meds while 3 other patients are screaming for pain meds.


  6. Wow, Sophie,

    Thanks for taking a bit of levity and turning it into an angry tirade! So you think you should bring whatever you like and have us do as you pay us to do? Fine, next time tell the doctor exactly what labs or x-rays to order and what prescriptions to write.

    But remember, if things don’t work out, you were the boss. Go sue yourself.


    PS Primum Non Nocere, or first do no harm, requires that we make a few decisions based on our own insight and education; not your whims.

  7. Right on, Ed. And I would add to the list: your in-laws, whatever you’ve been drinking before you came in (unless you’ve been poisoned), your preschoolers (unless they are the ones being seen) and your bad attitude.

  8. Thanks, Ed.
    Ummm, Sophie, we all need to “do no harm”. ER patients can have many fears and strong feelings about what’s going on in their bodies. It is our responsibility as humans (docs or patients) to treat each other with basic respect no matter how scared or painful we are. Doctors are not our slaves, and we are not lab rats or stupid. Lets all take some responsibility for our behavior. Dr Ed was absolutely accurate about the snake, phlegm,and the poop. I’ve been there. We’re all human in the ER!

  9. WOW !!! I thought the insurance companies were the ones paying the doctors, hospitals, staff and everything else by leveraging the money collected from my policy to assure me of the best rate possible.

    Perhaps I should use that “I pay your salary” if I ever have a run in with a law enforcement officer, after all without my taxes they work for free. I’ll write you from jail and let you know how it worked for me.

  10. Come on, Tom. The insurance companies are “leveraging the money” collected from your policy to assure themselves maximum profits (or in the case of the Blues, excuse me “surpluses” since they’re tax exempt).

  11. What a great post. I so agree about the body fluids (specimens), disability forms and MRI films. I feel the same way about those in my office but unfortunately I do get stuck with the disability forms anyway.

    Once I had a patient who left a baggie of pot behind. It must have slipped out of his pants pocket as he lay on the exam table. I discretely left a message on his home phone that he could pick up what he accidentally left behind. He did!

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