NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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March 20, 2014

The 10 types of ER patients

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5. The "Totally Healthy" Person. I can't tell you how often a patient will tell me he is healthy with no medical problems, then mention to his nurse that he gets insulin shots and takes "some white and blue pills." Please give us the full information about your health. Few visits to the ER are truly such an emergency that you don't have time to prepare in advance. Carry a card with you of all your medical conditions, past surgeries, allergies and current medications and dosages. Don't forget vitamins and herbal supplements. Let your doctor know you're coming; she can call in and let us know, or she might say you can see her that day instead of going to the ER.

6. The Forgetter. Often, I'll ask patients what brought them to the ER, and they'll look at me blankly. "I don't know," they'll say. Going to the ER is stressful, especially if you're ill and already not feeling well. While you're waiting for the doctor, write down your symptoms and key concerns. Bring a family member or friend with you who can help you speak up. There is limited time to see the doctor, so you have to make use of that time and tell us why you are here. If you brought a loved one to be seen, stay with the person - this isn't the time to go shopping and leave granny alone in the waiting room.

7. The Narcotic Seeker. This is the patient who says he has chronic pain and is out of his narcotic medications; for some reason, he cannot contact his primary care physician, and his pills have all been "stolen." The United States has an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, and we in the ER inadvertently become detectives. We want to be careful to identify patients who have real pain and real need, but we also don't want to feed addiction and even criminal behavior of those who abuse the system. If you have a real need, explain what happened and why you cannot see your regular doctor. If it's a different pain than usual, tell us clearly - perhaps there is an underlying new problem that we have to investigate.

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