Kith + Kin


In Case of Emergency: How to be an Advocate in the ER

By Ashley Chin


Ashley is a former Emergency Room Nurse turned stay-at-home baker for her delicious cookie company, Ranta Bakes LLC. In her spare time, Ashley loves to craft, crochet, and spend time with her husband, Tyler, and their sweet wire fox terrier puppy, Luna.


As a former Emergency Room Nurse, I’ve seen all types of people come through our doors. Despite their differences, everyone has one thing in common: The fear or uncertainty in their eyes as the hustle and bustle of the ER continues around them.


When a new patient comes into the ER, my main priority is to take care of the patient, then the family and any other advocates at the bedside. During this time, the ER team will be asking a lot of questions while providing next steps to the patient and their health advocates. These questions can be exhaustive during times of stress, but they’re very important for the patient’s health and well-being.


Having been in these shoes as both the nurse and the patient, I’ve come up with a list of important details to have on hand when you’re bringing a loved one to the ER for treatment. This list can help you stress less during these times of uncertainty, and know that you have done your best to help care for yourself or your loved one. And, what a great thing to keep in a Notebook in your Kith + Kin app!


I’ve divided the list into two categories: The Basics are your absolute must-haves, whereas Everything Else includes helpful info that may not be needed right at the moment.


The Basics

  • Identifying Info: This includes legal name, date of birth, and gender, as well as the patient’s preferred name, which may differ from their legal name.  This is especially important to know if the patient is disoriented or confused.

  • Possibility of Pregnancy (if applicable): Certain medications and procedures may need to be altered or discussed further if the patient is pregnant.

  • Allergies: To medications, foods, metals, latex, or anything else.

  • Medical Conditions + Past Medical History: Any medical condition the Patient currently has or has had previously, as well as past surgeries and procedures.

  • Medications the Patient is taking: Including prescribed, over-the-counter, vitamins and supplements, and any other substances, legal or otherwise.

  • Emergency Contact: Ideally, this is one of the decision makers for the patient. A primary phone number is important to include as well as any other phone numbers that can be used to reach the designated Emergency Contact.

  • Advanced Directive/ Living Will: If the Patient cannot make decisions for themselves, what would they want done? DNR (Do not resuscitate)? “Do Everything?”

  • Power of Attorney (POA): Legally, who can make decisions for this patient if the patient cannot make the decisions for themselves?


Note: Don’t feel bad if you don’t know all these answers for your loved one. Many people do not, which is why it’s important to have these discussions with those who are more likely to need emergency care in the future (like the elderly).


Everything Else

  • Blood Type: The ER will test for this if needed but having the information on hand is also very helpful in the times that we need to administer blood quickly.

  • Last 4 Digits of SSN: Many patient accounts have social security numbers included in them, and having the last 4 digits can help differentiate between patient accounts if there are similarities.

  • Medical Implants: Including stents, screws, rods, pace makers, and so forth. Patients who have metal in their body cannot have an MRI due to the strong magnetism that is used to create the image.

    • Most implants will come with a card from the manufacturer which will say if it is safe for an MRI machine as well as contact numbers and the serial number of the implant. Having a copy and/or knowing which implants and manufacturers can also be very helpful.

  • Family Medical History: In particular, this includes heart issues, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, brain issues, and any other conditions the patient feels is pertinent to their own health, such as obesity or endometriosis.

  • Personal Health Info: Including smoking habits, alcohol use, and sexual activity. 

  • Travel + Immunizations: When and Where is the last place they have traveled? Are they up-to-date on immunizations, and which ones have they had?

  • Medical Insurance information: Keep in mind that you DO NOT need medical insurance to be treated at an ER in the United States. You cannot be turned away until you are evaluated and treated per EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act)lation/emtala.


There are many more things that you, as an advocate or patient, can be asked as an ER or hospital stay continues, but the points above will give you a great starting point. And know that even if you walk in knowing nothing at all except their name (or even no name), the ER care team will give the patient the best care possible.

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