Visiting the ER or emergency department of a hospital for immediate orthopedic needs can be a traumatic and stressful experience for anyone. But with the right team on the case and the right frame of mind, you can weather an ER visit without adding to the pressure.
Here are five details on ER care to keep in mind, courtesy of the experts at Orthopedic Institute (OI).
Is it a true emergency?
If you find yourself needing orthopedic care that is non-life-threatening and occurs between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., you have the option of calling a clinic, such as OI (605-331-5890). Speaking with a knowledgeable and caring nurse will help you find out more about the seriousness of your injury and potentially get you scheduled with a doctor on the same day, encourage you to come to a walk-in clinic like the ones OI offers or head directly to an ER.
Emergency or urgency?
If you require urgent but not necessarily emergency orthopedic care, a walk-in clinic may be your best option. OI offers OI NOW from 3-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on Saturdays. Urgent care or walk-in clinics are typically staffed by a professional orthopedic physician assistant (PA). They're an option when your situation is concerning enough that you don’t want to wait until the next day. The PA will be able to assess your injury and help determine what the best route is for you. You may need to see a physician, and the PA can get the ball rolling with x-rays and, when necessary, an MRI.
Is it after hours?
If you're in need of orthopedic medical care after typical office hours and you're not certain a trip to the emergency room is the right way to go, you can call a clinic's after-hours service (OI's is at 605-331-5890). The service provider will listen and take a message to quickly transmit it to an available doctor on call. He or she then calls you back to determine how urgent your situation is and whether a trip to the ER is necessary or you should set an office appointment in the next day or two.
Ready to wait?
Sometimes a trip to the ER is necessary—so it's important to have a grasp on how best to approach it. More than 130 million times a year, people in the United States end up in an emergency room—often with non-life-threatening problems that can mean hours of waiting for treatment. Before seeing a doctor, expect to wait more than 55 minutes, the average ER wait time across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On a busy night or weekend, the wait could end up being several hours, depending on where you live.
Seeing a specialist?
A word to the wise: If you do end up in the ER, most people don't know that you can choose your own doctor. Your ER doctor may try to keep you within his or her network rather than offer you a choice of a specialist you may prefer, so you insist on seeing the doctor of your choice. Exercising this option can be useful if you regularly see a doctor familiar with your condition or if you have never been seen by a specialist such as an OI doctor, but wish to see one with skill in the area that's landed you in the ER in the first place. Having the ER call an orthopedic doctor with whom you already have a relationship will get the process started much more quickly than with a doctor who has never treated you before. This will only help get you in and out of the ER as soon as possible and ahead of patients waiting to be assigned a doctor.