. Don’t forget to call your doctor on the way to the ER
When ER doctors hear from a fellow physician, they listen, says Beiser at the University of Chicago. "They’ll talk to me professionally and put a bug in my ear," he says. "This guy will now be on my radar screen."
2. Don’t use an ambulance unless you really need it
"There’s a myth out there that if you arrive in an ambulance, you’ll go straight back to the doctor," Mason says. "But it’s not true. If we can see that you can walk, you may get asked to get off that gurney and go to the waiting room."
3. Don’t be quiet
If the triage nurse — that’s who makes the decisions about who needs care first — isn’t helping you, don’t stop there, says Sayah. "Speak up. Say, ‘I need to see the person in charge,’" he says.
4. Don’t get angry, and don’t lie
While it’s important to make yourself heard, it’s also important to use basic etiquette.
"We’re all human, and usually when people are nice to us, we’re nicer back to them," Sayah says.
Lying about your symptoms — making them seem worse than they really are in hopes of getting attention faster — can backfire, says Dr. William Bozeman, an emergency room doctor at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
"We have people saying they have crushing sub-sternal chest pain, that they’re having a heart attack, when in reality they’re trying to get Vicodin for chronic back pain," he says. When the staff figures it out, "They may not be very pleased at all and may not treat you nicely."
5. Don’t forget the phone
If things get really bad, and no one is helping you, look for a house phone, dial zero, and ask for the hospital administrator on call, Sayah says. "Even the smallest hospitals have a hospital administrator or a patient advocate on call 24/7," he says. "Hospital administrators don’t want to hear patients are unhappy. Their job is to break the hurdles and move forward."