How to know where to go

Medical PerspectiveDr. Gerald Russell has seen his share of medical emergencies in 24 years of emergency room work – real emergencies like heart attack, stroke and life-threatening injuries.

He and the Baptist Health Paducah team clicked into action recently when a school bus overturned and sent 13 high school girls into our department at one time – all while victims of two other accidents and assorted other emergencies were being treated.

RussellUnfortunately, he also has seen sore throats, aching backs and plenty of other conditions that no one can really call an emergency. Those complaints fill emergency departments, causing people to spend more time and money than they would if they’d sought treatment from more appropriate providers.

“It’s frustrating when you’re trained in emergency care,” he said, “to see people misuse the emergency department, when they really need to go to a walk-in clinic or perhaps just to the pharmacy.”

Such misuse is rampant.

England has an attention-getting ad campaign, “You can choose better,” making the same point quite graphically. Five folks are in line for the emergency department, each with a description of their symptoms, ranging from sore throat to minor cuts, and a notation that they should have sought treatment elsewhere. The last one in line is a wreath with the notation: “Severe chest pain. Should have been at the front of the queue.”choose better

Of course, chest pain, stroke and other life-threatening conditions or injuries are moved to the “front of the line” in our triage process.

But people with non-life-threatening conditions could have saved time and trouble by seeking more appropriate treatment, such as:

SELF CARE for sore throats, colds, upset stomachs, minor cuts

The sore throat should have been treated at home. One should keep fever/pain reducers, such as acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, at home, along with anti-diarrheal medication, heartburn remedies, bandages and a thermometer. The old adage of “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” works surprisingly well for most minor illnesses and injuries.

ASK US OR YOUR PHARMACIST when you’re unsure

Those unsure or confused about an illness should talk to one of our Baptist Health Line nurses – free, anytime 24/7 – at 270.575.2918. Also, your pharmacist can provide helpful information and treatment suggestions for minor complaints, such as coughs, colds and toothaches.

SEE A PROFESSIONAL if you don’t get better

You need a primary care physician, who keeps your records and knows your history. If you don’t have one or can’t see yours when you need to, you can visit a walk-in clinic, such as Baptist Health Prime Care (open late during the week and on Saturdays) to see a doctor; or you can see a nurse practitioner for minor complaints at Baptist Express Care in the local Walmarts – all for non-life-threatening conditions.

CALL 911 AND GET TO THE ER for life- or limb-threatening emergency

When should you go to the ER? If the condition is life- or limb-threatening (or could be), such as chest pain or stroke symptoms, inability to breathe, uncontrollable bleeding, unconscious, the sudden onset of severe headaches or neurological issues.

Why shouldn’t you drive to the ER? EMS can begin treatment immediately while their drivers get you safely through traffic quickly. They can even transmit vital information – EKG results, blood types and other data – so the emergency department is ready to begin appropriate treatment when you arrive.

In life or death emergencies, seconds matter. Trained emergency professionals, like Dr. Russell, can offer timely treatment to preserve precious heart muscle or brain tissue to reduce the effects of heart attack and stroke. They can save your life. Really, do you want to take your sore throat to them?

Make the right choices about your medical care, so they can help you when a true emergency hits.

About Baptist Health Paducah

Baptist Health Paducah is a regional medical and referral center, serving about 200,000 patients a year from four states. With more than 1,800 employees and 200 physicians, it offers a full range of services, including cardiac and cancer care, diagnostic imaging, women’s and children’s services, surgery, emergency treatment, rehabilitation and more. Since its humble beginning in 1953, Baptist Health Paducah has grown from 117 beds to 349 beds on a campus covering eight square blocks.
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