If you think you’re the only one who has ever nervously called your doctor late at night, you’re wrong. With a chronic illness it can be hard to define the word “emergency” and what constitutes a good reason to call your doctor. Here are some hard to answer questions about what to do in emergency situations with chronic illness.
Q: When is it okay to call a doctor in the middle of the night?
A: Begin by asking YOURSELF a few questions:
1) Can I wait until the morning to get relief from this problem? If the answer really is no, then of course you have to call. No one wants you to suffer in pain or discomfort for hours.
2) Is my question one that ONLY a doctor can answer? Think hard about this one, there are plenty of resources available to you late at night. Did you know that most pharmacies are open 24 hours and can answer many of your questions about mixing medications and prescription dosages? Check to see if you’re local CVS can clear up your confusion.
3) Has this happened before? If so, what was the solution? I know this one seems obvious, but sometimes the panic of pain or prescription reactions can scare the sense out of you. Think hard—if its happened before, you may already know how to solve the problem.
Q: When is it okay to buzz a nurse in the hospital?
A: In the hospital, you’re helpless. If you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t be there. With that being said—if you’re IV starts beeping; buzz the nurse. If you need to use the toilet and are a fall risk, call the nurse. If you need your medication ten minutes ago and you buzzed twenty minutes ago—continue to call the damn nurse. And with THAT being said—you would like a turkey sandwich? Call the cafeteria.
Q: When is it okay to not go to school or work because of illness?
A: My rule was generally: If you’re feeling sick, don’t go if you don’t have a way out. Will you be stuck in a continuous project that would be better off done all at once tomorrow? Don’t go. Will you not have a ride home in the afternoon if you decide to go in the morning? Don’t go. Are you battling an infection that could sicken others? Don’t go. At school, you should have a 504 plan to help you manage your school work when you can’t physically be in school. I never would have graduated without one!
Q: How aggressive should I be when I demand/ask to take a certain test/scan/medication that my doctor hasn’t already suggested?
A: Bringing up a new treatment or diagnostic idea to your physician can easily feel like overstepping your boundaries. After all—they’re the doctor. The only thing is: you’re the patient. If you can’t muster the nerve to speak up about the possibility of something new and unmentioned helping you—you’re in for a long road of disappointment. Doctors are not gods. They don’t have all the
answers, so even if you just suppose—you just might have a potential answer—ask!!
Q: At what point should I go to the Emergency Room?
A: If you’re even considering going to the ER—call your doctor (day or night) and let them decide whether or not it’s reasonable to go.