I’ve never given much thought to emergency rooms, except during the rare and random times I’ve found myself in them. My lasting memory from those collective experiences is the waiting… and waiting and waiting. But I always figured that was part of it, so my feelings about them have always been pretty neutral.
For many Americans, though, the ER is a very familiar place–especially for those who don’t have insurance to see a primary care physician when sickness strikes. Recognizing this, Reader’s Digest magazine seeks to uncover the mysteries of the ER in its March 2010 issue: what really goes on behind the scenes, and 50 secrets that doctors, nurses and paramedics won’t tell you. The story is part of a larger series that sheds light on the misconceptions behind some of America’s most commonly used services. Previous articles this year have included revelations on what your waiter, pharmacist and shoe salesman won’t tell you.
I scanned the cover story for the answer to my most pressing question: Why all the waiting? Turns out the average ER visit is just two hours and 40 minutes (but it seems so much longer when you’re sitting there doing nothing). Often, it’s due to a shortage of beds or the need to treat patients with more life-threatening problems first. “Waiting is good. It means you’re not going to die,” paramedic Don Lundy tells the magazine. “The person you need to feel sorry for is the one who gets rushed into the ER and treated first.”
The article covers everything from ambulance etiquette (paramedics don’t use sirens unless someone is bleeding, having chest pain or struggling to breathe) to waiting room decorum (those on the verge of vomiting get a room more quickly). Some tidbits could make or break your next ER experience: Be as descriptive as you can about medical history or prior medications–it makes a difference; be nice to the nurses–they’ll remember; and never ever lie, talk smack about your doctor or expect special treatment–unless you want a particularly painful visit (figuratively speaking, of course).
Along with ERs, the Reader’s Digest magazine explores another mystery-shrouded industry–credit card companies–in its consumer alert section. With the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in effect, the magazine shares an in-depth examination of the loopholes credit card companies are already using to get around this law, and comprehensive tips on how consumers can keep companies accountable.
In this issue, you’ll also find illuminating portraits on Mark Harmon, the star of hit detective show “NCIS” and an actor who has managed to stay out of the harsh Hollywood spotlight, and baseball legend Willie Mays, whose story continues to intrigue and confound the American public. The magazine also leaves you with some laughs, including the world’s funniest (and most idiotic) scientific experiments. Ever considered what hurts more, getting hit over the head with a full bottle of beer or an empty one? Oh, there are studies….