What Will You Do…?
What will you do if you get sick with something non-Covid-19 and need healthcare?
Do you have a plan for how to get medical help?
Say you get ill or injured after hours or on the weekend? Do you know what your choices are?
It Started One Sunday Morning…
Very early one Sunday morning I woke up and couldn’t stand. I was very dizzy, felt like fainting, and had to crawl to get to what I needed. It scared me. When I got back into bed I realized I had a really bad headache that was throbbing. My blood pressure was extremely low. I tried to ignore it figuring more sleep would help. I was wrong.
The second time I woke up I was still dizzy, had a headache, very low blood pressure and felt faint. I was really worried. What was wrong with me? I knew I had to talk to a healthcare professional but how? I am still on shelter-in-place.
I had a plan, used it, got in contact with a healthcare professional without leaving my home and got the professional advice I needed. I ended up at an Urgent Care where I got the healthcare I needed.
In this blog post I will teach you how to use my simple 3-step plan so you too can get the healthcare you need for non-Covid-19 illness.
You will learn:
Step 1. How to assess your symptoms
Step 2. How to find out what medical care you need
Step 3. How to make sure you know what to do after you’ve gotten help
Let’s Talk About What to Do When You Are Sick
When I became aware I was sick, I realized I felt awful. I’d never had these symptoms before. I knew I needed help. What did I do???
Well, probably the same thing a lot of you do; tried to go back to sleep hoping that the symptoms would go away. Did it work? No.
I already had a plan for what to do when something like this happened to me but this is the time of COVID-19. Would my plan work if I was supposed to shelter-in-place? It did work and I want to share it with you so you have a plan too. By the way, trying to sleep off a health problem severe enough to wake you up is a bad idea. Just saying.
My 3-Step Plan
Here is the 3-step plan I followed that got me the help I needed and it can do the same for you. Click on the button below to check out the infographic on the shortcut to my plan.
BUT THE FIRST THING TO DO: FIGURE OUT IF YOU NEED TO GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM
Why? There are times when you need emergency care.
“When in doubt, call 911. It’s important that you get to the emergency room quickly and safely, especially if you are experiencing severe chest pain or severe bleeding, or if you feel like you might faint or have impaired vision,” says Ghazala Sharieff, MD, Scripps chief medical officer.
A reason to call 911? If your symptoms are life-threatening the paramedics will start treatment before you even reach the hospital. If at all possible, DO NOT DRIVE YOURSELF TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM.
What to do: If you have any of the following symptoms, call 911 or call your nearest emergency department to let them know you are coming.
Some of the symptoms that need emergency care are:
|Chest pain or difficulty breathing||Weakness/numbness on one side||Slurred speech|
|Fainting/change in mental state||Concussion/confusion||Serious burns|
|Broken bones and dislocated joints||Mental health issues that make you very agitated, confused or suicidal||Head or eye injury|
|Severe cuts that may require stitches||Severe cold or flu symptoms||Fever with a rash|
|Facial lacerations||Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy||Seizures|
Now You Know: When to call 911 or call and then go to the nearest emergency department
MY 3-STEP PLAN
Step 1: How to assess your symptoms
What You’ll Do: You will ask yourself questions about your sickness and if you are able to, write down the answers. You may also have a partner or loved one who has seen you through this and can be helpful.
This step makes you assess your symptoms to help you decide where to start in asking for care. Above all, trust your gut. If you believe your symptoms are very serious and you are in trouble, call 911. Paramedics can start treatment even before you get to the hospital. Start with these steps:
You will want to write down your results. Describe your symptoms to yourself and write down the answers. Here are questions to ask yourself.
- Take your temperature, check your pulse with the fingers of your other hand and if you have additional monitoring equipment like a blood pressure cuff or a device that measures the oxygen in your bloodstream, use those as well.
- Write down your results.
- Describe your symptoms to yourself and write down the answers. Here are questions to ask yourself.
- What are your symptoms? (Be descriptive here. Better to say I have a stabbing headache than I have a headache as it gives more information.)
- If you are in pain, try to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable.
- Have you ever had these symptoms before?
- What were you doing before the symptoms started?
- How long have they lasted?
- How have you treated them (for example with ibuprofen)?
- What symptoms bother you the most?
Now You Know: what your temperature etc. is and your list of symptoms, all written down
Step 2: How To Find Out What Medical Care You Need
What You’ll Do: You are going to ask a healthcare professional what to do. And I am going to teach you a strategy for getting to that professional whether it’s during office hours or after hours or on the weekend.
A lot of people worry about access to healthcare professionals when you are sick during COVID-19. The realities of contacting a healthcare professional in this time of stay-at-home means that personal visits to healthcare professionals are very limited.
Remote appointments, either through video conferencing or phone calls, have become the standard in many places.
If you need help that can only come from an office or a facility outside your home and it is not a life-threatening emergency, you will need to call or video chat first. Expect questions related to whether you could have COVID-19 before they decide whether you should come in to be seen.
Urgent Care-type facilities may also screen you for COVID-19 symptoms before you are allowed in.
And many healthcare professionals want you to stay out of the emergency room unless that is the level of care you require. They are concerned about your risk of getting ill from bugs you are exposed to in emergency rooms, not just COVID-19.
Currently non-COVID-19 patients are staying away from emergency rooms until they are critically ill. Don’t let that be you if you need emergency help. Why? The earlier you can receive emergency treatment, the more you’ve increased your chances of a better outcome. When you are critically ill, the emergency departments may be more limited in their treatment options because you are so ill.
People wait for all sorts of reasons, but fear of getting the coronavirus is probably the major reason non-COVID-19 patients stay away right now.
In some emergency departments, beds go empty even though the patients needing emergency care for non-COVID-19 reasons are still out there. If you have life-threatening symptoms, do not stay away. You will need the care.
The strategy? You work your way through the healthcare professionals available to you until you get to someone who can give you advice on what level of care you need.
Remember: this strategy assumes that you do not have severe or life-threatening conditions that require Emergency Department treatment. If you go to an Urgent Care or similar facility, they can always assess you and determine that you need emergency care.
Put your written list of measurements and symptoms in front of you. Prepare to be brief at first.
- Ask to speak to the medical assistant for your doctor if there is one. They generally have access both to your doctor and your medical records.
- You may be able to speak directly to your doctor at that time.
- Note: if the advice does not seem relevant to your situation (“stay at home, drink fluids, eat rich foods” when you have been so ill you have lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks and are not able to eat as an example), keep following these instructions.
- If the office is closed, call the doctor on call for after-hours or weekend illness if one is available. If you start to feel much worse before you get a callback, keep following these instructions.
- Call a local healthcare professional who does screening for minor issues over the phone or through a video application.
- You may need to do some internet research to find out whether that service is available in your local area.
- Hospitals, Urgent-Care style clinics, or even walk-in clinics have started programs that allow you to contact a healthcare professional such as a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant for a video appointment or phone call.
- You generally pay for this service. Pay for the advice; it can be extremely helpful.
- Note: Your insurance may cover it because of COVID-19.
- Also, you may not need to pay if they advise you to go to a facility like an Urgent Care.
- If this service is not available in your area, call an Urgent-Care type of facility and ask to speak to someone who can give you advice on the level of care you need.
- You can always try calling someone outside your local area if the instructions above don’t get you the advice you need.
- Some insurance companies have a 24/7 Nurses Call Line you can try.
- Or you can find the closest healthcare service that gets you a remote appointment with a healthcare professional. You can get very good advice this way but they may not know the resources available in your local area for treatment.
Now You Know: The level of care you need and where to get it
Step 3: How to make sure you know what to do after you’ve gotten help
What You’ll Do: You’ve gotten help. Now you need to know exactly what you are supposed to do afterward.
Say you had to leave your home to go to an office, a walk-in clinic, or an Urgent Care to get some treatment. Maybe you were even sent to the Emergency Department based on your symptoms.
You’ve been treated. Now what? Make sure you know what you are supposed to do next.
- Come away from your phone or video conversation with your healthcare professional with a list of things you need to do. Confirm this list before the conversation ends.
- Get a plan of care, which is a set of written instructions for how to take care of yourself, from the office or other facility outside your home.
- Make sure they have either called-in prescriptions or that you have the prescription to get filled. It’s usually easier on you to have them call in prescriptions.
- Ask someone to go over the plan with you if the facility doesn’t automatically do so.
- Do not leave before you understand what to do.
- Examples? How to take your antibiotics, what to look for to see if you’re getting worse, whether you need a follow-up appointment in a few days.
- It’s a good idea to call the pharmacy to make sure they have received your prescription so that it can be ready when you get it.
Now You Know: What you need to do to take care of yourself at home and how to get your prescriptions filled on the way home.
So you have learned to call 911 or your local emergency department for severe or life-threatening symptoms.
You have a 3-step plan to get the healthcare you need for non-COVID-19 illnesses.
What do you do next?? (Hint: Prepare…)
Two More Things!
Get your special bonus, What to Take With You, and be super-prepared!