Most of us at one point or another have to step foot into an emergency room.  Sometimes it’s to visit someone we care about.  Other times we’re the unfortunate ones who are feeling ill.  One thing is for certain, it’s usually never a good time.  The other certain thing is the wait.  Unless you’re considered critical by the triage nurses or happen to be at the emergency room during the right hours, you’re likely going to have to wait.  Here are a few tips from an emergency room nurse to help you survive the long wait times.  

Six Great Tips On Surviving Emergency Room Wait Times

According from data from Medicare, the average emergency room wait times across the nation are about thirty minutes (1).  Keep in mind, this is the average.  If you’re near any major metropolitan area, the wait is likely going be be longer.  Depending on the time of year (flu season anyone?) to the time of day (afternoons and evenings are the worst) your wait could end up taking several hours if you’re not critically ill.

If you have ever been in an emergency room, you know that waiting sucks.  Emergency rooms are also a pretty disgusting place to be.  Everyone around you is sick.  You’re probably bored and also trying to figure out how to kill time.  Here are some tips to help you kill time and stay healthy.

1.  Bring A Phone Charger  

There is always the potential that you could be in the emergency room waiting for hours.  The longest wait time I have seen for a person was near twelve hours.  But it’s not uncommon to see people waiting between three to six hours to be seen by a provider.  Bring your phone charger.  If your phone dies, not only are you going to be bored but it could make it harder for you to contact someone important.  Most hospitals carry  phone chargers that can be lent out.  You should still never depend on someone else to charge your phone.   

2.  Bring A Book                 

Most people’s smart phones have reader capabilities.  If yours doesn’t, you should bring a book, your Kindle, or tablet.  Waiting for several hours is a great way to get caught up on some reading.

3.  Wash Your Hands  

Like I said before, emergency rooms are disgusting places.  There are bacteria and viruses everywhere and on every surface.  If you’re truly sick, you don’t want to pick up some other bug that could make you feel even worse.  If you’re not sick, you don’t want to pick up anything to make you sick.  Hand washing is still one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection.  Many hospitals provide an alcohol based hand sanitizer.  If you’re unable to wash your hands, at least use the alcohol hand gel.  Also, keep from touching your face and head with your hands.

4.  Wear A Mask  

The droplets from a cough or a sneeze from a person can travel up to several feet.  These droplets can carry bacteria and viruses.  The droplets can land on surfaces that you end up touching (see washing your hands).  Worse yet, they can also be inhaled by you and provide the bacteria or virus a new home inside your body.  As a nurse in the emergency room, we don’t mind handing out face masks to people who request them.  This mask may keep you from inhaling droplets from the person who has influenza or RSV right next to you.

5.  It’s Okay To Wait Outside  

You don’t need to sit inside the entire time during your emergency room wait.  But you need to tell us if you’re going outside so we know where you are.  If you come up and let any of the nurses know that you’re stepping outside for a bit while you’re waiting, we’re more than happy (or we should be) to oblige your request.  I wouldn’t want to be cooped up with a bunch of ill people either.  Someone could get all Walking Dead on you.

6.  Bring Everything You Might Need 

If you’re visiting the emergency room because of a simple broken bone or a small laceration that needs simple stitches you more than likely won’t need to be admitted to the hospital.  But for everyone else, you may have to be admitted.  Bring the things that are important to you in the event that you may have to stay the night in the hospital.  For me that list is:  a phone, phone charger, Kindle, and a computer.  Your list will probably be different.  You never know what could happen but if you’re going to be staying in the hospital you’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible in your home away from home.

That’s all I have to offer on my list of tips for how to survive the emergency room.  I’d love to hear from other people who have their own tips on surviving emergency room wait times.  What are yours?



N.a.  United States Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services.  “Timely and Effective Care – National.  Line 27.”  1 April 2015.  Web.  10 March 2017.