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How to Get Immediate Attention in the ER

Don't wait hours to be examined by a doctor. These strategies will push you to the top of the list.


  • Step 1: Name drop If you know anyone who works at the hospital, drop their name, even if the connection is tenuous.
  • Step 2: Make it sound serious Don't minimize your symptoms. Saying, "I'm having chest pains; I think I'm having a heart attack" is probably going to get you seen faster than someone who says, "I'm having chest pains; it might be indigestion."
  • TIP: The symptoms that get people through the door are "chest pain," "abdominal pain," "difficulty breathing," and "severe headache."
  • Step 3: Emphasize abnormal behavior If a loved one is with you, instruct them to tell the staff that you are not acting right. This is another symptom that gets attention because it indicates there might be a brain injury.
  • Step 4: Move up the food chain Ask to speak to the charge nurse, emergency department director, or shift supervisor. If no one will to talk to you, pick up the ER phone, dial the operator, and ask them to page the patient advocate or hospital administrator on call.
  • Step 5: Say the situation is worsening Speak to medical personnel in their own language: Tell them your condition is "deteriorating" and that you believe this is a "medical emergency" that requires immediate attention, in order to prevent a "bad outcome."
  • TIP: Be firm but polite, persistent but not obnoxious.
  • Step 6: Ask for a reassessment Ask the front desk for the triage nurse to do a reassessment of your condition, saying your symptoms are getting worse. ER workers admit that the squeaky patient often gets the examination.
  • Step 7: Tell a white lie Do a quick internet search for the hospital's president or administrator and say, "I think so-and-so would want me to be seen." This works best after-hours, when the staff will be less likely to track down the person. But be aware that if you're found out, you could get even slower service unless your condition truly constitutes an emergency.
  • FACT: The average waiting time in a U.S. emergency room in 2008 was four hours and three minutes.

You Will Need

  • Serious-sounding symptoms
  • Persistence
  • Politeness
  • The name of a hospital VIP

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