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Emergency rooms are one of the most common places for doctors and nurses to make medical errors affecting patient health. A medical error is any preventable adverse effect caused by medical care and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States each year. Despite the risks, emergency rooms are integral to the American medical system. They provide many people with life-saving treatment. Because they are so critical to the American medical system, patients should be aware of the risks to minimize the possibility of serious injury.

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Who Uses the Emergency Room?

Often, people visit the emergency room for treatment for flu, dehydration, and broken bones. However, emergency rooms are equipped to treat severe injuries. They are often the first point of treatment for people who have suffered a disabling accident. Children, in particular, frequently seek treatment in emergency rooms because accidental injuries are the leading cause of death in children and teenagers in the United States. Some common childhood accidents are:

·         Drowning

·         Poisoning

·         Suffocating

·         Fires & Burns

·         Falls

·         Motor vehicle accidents

Childhood accidents and injuries account for approximately 16,000 deaths every year. Further, non-fatal childhood accidents lead to around 20 million injuries and 300,000 hospital admissions. Because children are frequent visitors to emergency rooms, they are susceptible to medical errors.

What Are Common Mistakes Made in the Emergency Room?

Common causes of medical errors in emergency rooms include urgency, overcrowding, and shortage of personnel and equipment. These factors can lead to common mistakes such as:

Diagnostic errors. When doctors misdiagnose or fail to diagnose an ailment, a patient might not receive the necessary medical care.

Triage errors. Patients may suffer from delayed care if medical personnel fail to recognize the urgency of a patient’s condition.

Medication errors. Doctors and nurses sometimes give patients the wrong medicine, incorrect dosages, or fail to check for drug allergies or unsafe drug interactions.

Communication errors. One of the most common communication errors occurs when medical personnel fails to give patients proper discharge instructions.

Testing errors. Doctors may fail to order or correctly interpret tests.

Procedure errors. Overworked doctors may sometimes perform a procedure incorrectly.

Blood transfusion errors. Patients may receive contaminated blood or the wrong type of blood during a blood transfusion.

One recent study shows that up to 20% of patients fall victim to medical errors. Although most medical errors don’t lead to adverse effects, a small percentage result in death or severe injury. The victims and their families are then left to deal with the aftermath.

How Can Patients Avoid Mistakes in the Emergency Room?

Patients can take steps to help lower their risk of medical errors in the emergency room. When possible, they should bring a complete list of doctors, recent test results, and medication. Patients can also have their doctor call ahead to the emergency room to provide information. Finally, patients should bring a friend or a relative.

Unfortunately, even when patients take precautions, they still might suffer an injury. Victims may experience difficulty recovering adequate compensation to cover their expenses. Often, victims will need additional medical care and may need to consider the costs for long-term care. They may find it necessary to hire an attorney to help with filing a claim against the hospital.