some info that might help if you ever have to
go to the emergency department or
•First, try to get to your own doctor, or a medi-clinic
before going to the hospital. The emergency department
is for emergencies and is usually really busy.
•ER sees people who are sickest first – this
is up to the nurse at the front desk. If you come
in by ambulance, this doesn’t mean you’ll
get in faster – you may have to wait in the
•Staff in the ER can sometimes have a bad day – we
all do! Try not to take it personally and be proud
of the fact that you are being respectful.
•There are lots different types of exam rooms in
the ER – someone may get in ahead of you
if they need a special eye room or women’s
exam that can only be done in one kind of room.
Also, people go in according to how sick they are,
so even if someone came in after you, they may
get in to see the doctor before you because their
problem is more serious.
•If you leave the waiting room – it helps
to tell the nurse where you are going…then,
if they call your name they will know where to
find you. If you don’t answer to your name
being called 2 or 3 times, they will think you
have left and take you off the waiting list.
•Use your real name whenever possible – it
helps the hospital keep a record of your visits
so the next time you come in, they will know your
history – this will help hospital staff look
after you better. Also, if you come in unconscious
or passed out, the staff will know about your history,
medications and allergies if they have your real
•Know that most health care professionals don’t
know what its like to live on the street and have
to deal with the daily struggles…and they
may be afraid to ask. So, give them with as much
information as you can in order to work out the
best plan for your health.
•Have one friend or family member that you trust
with you – it may help the time pass and
they may be able to help if you need it.
•Hospital staff in Emergency see lots & lots
of folks who inject or are addicted to drugs. They
have experience with drugs and how they affect
your health. They also know what different drugs
can do to your body, and they can usually tell
what you’ve been taking if they order certain
•Sometimes you have to tell your “story” to
many different people (nurses, doctors, specialists,
residents) – the reason for this is that
all those people are there to help you in different
ways and may get different things out of your history.
Everyone who comes to the hospital has to put up
with this…it can be frustrating but its so
they can do a good job. *If your clothes are missing,
it may be because the ambulance guys had to cut
them off when they picked you up. If you weren’t
breathing or were lying in wet clothes, the staff
will take them off, sometimes even cut them if
it’s a life or death situation – a
nurse can help you get clean dry clothes to replace
them, just ask.
•Lots of times when someone comes in by ambulance
and they got picked up on the street unconscious
or beat up, they come to hospital without their
glasses or wallet or keys, etc… These things
may have been lost or stolen before the ambulance
got there – or they may have been lost or
stolen in hospital – ask a nurse if you came
in with any belongings that have gone missing,
they can look around for you or call the ambulance
department to help find them.
•There are social workers in the hospital who are
very good at getting you connected with services
in the community when its time for you to leave
the hospital. Ask to see them if you need any help
at all once you are discharged.
•Your medical history is really important to the
doctors and nurses– your HIV or Hepatitis
status or any other diseases or medical problems
you have are important for them to know. Having
HIV or Hepatitis can mean you might be much sicker
than someone who doesn’t have these diseases
and things like a fever can be more dangerous to
you so if the staff know everything about your
health, they can do the right tests and look after
•Have a list of your allergies, previous medical
problems and current health problems with you all
the time – if you’re unconscious this
is very important – the nurse can find it
in your wallet or clothes and then have the information
they need to look after you safely and properly.
Bring your pills in with you – also your
empty pill bottles or any bottles of stuff you
•Emergency isn’t a cop shop – the staff
are there to help you with your health concern,
not to report you to the police so be honest with
the nurses and doctors…the only way they
can look after you well is if you are straight
up about your health (drug use, HIV/Hepatitis status,
previous medical problems). Things will go faster
and you will be looked after better when the hospital
staff know all they need to know about you.
•When you have to stay in hospital for a longer
time, the schedule in hospital may be hard to get
used to. Nurses may be waking you up at funny times
and it might be hard to get used to their routines.
There are certain times that you will need to take
your medications or go for tests. X-rays and other
treatments have to happen when they are scheduled
because these departments are very busy. If you
need to go out to smoke or for a walk, be sure
and tell the nurses where you will be and check
•Be proud of the fact that you are looking after
yourself by going to the hospital.