What to Expect When Going to the ER With COVID-19
This blog was originally published on May 4th, 2020. Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, some information may not be up to date. Stay informed by following information from your local officials and by visiting the CDC website.
While the large majority of COVID-19 cases can be treated at home, severe symptoms may require a trip to the ER. The rate of hospitalization for this virus increases with age, so while those younger than 50 years of age with COVID-19 have a hospitalization rate of 0.1–7.4%, older populations experience a rate of 12.2–17.2%.
We asked one of our nurse leaders at CHI St. Joseph Health to provide some insight so patients and their loved ones can know what to expect if hospitalization is necessary.
On the Way to the Emergency Room
Do COVID-19 patients need to bring anything with them to the hospital?
Current medication lists are always necessary when you visit a healthcare facility. We highly encourage patients to also bring cell phone chargers with them if going to the ER, as they may or may not be admitted. Additionally, we recommend writing down the names and phone numbers of key individuals who can help our team keep the patient’s records up to date.
What if a patient doesn’t have time to pack?
If a patient doesn’t have time to pack or forgets something, family members may drop it off at the entrance of the facility, and a member of our team will deliver it to them. But keep in mind, outside food is not allowed for delivery to patients at this time.
After Admission to the ER for COVID-19
How long can COVID-19 patients expect to be in the hospital?
This varies depending upon the severity of illness. Some patients stay in the hospital for a couple days, while others may need to stay for weeks.
Will COVID-19 patients have to share a room with other patients?
As of right now, all of our inpatient rooms are private rooms.
Can patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 receive visitors?
For any patient suspected of COVID-19 or COVID-19 positive, no visitors are allowed. This goes for most hospitalized patients. Exceptions include pediatric services, labor and delivery, the NICU, and end-of-life care, and visitors are taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis. For these services, patients may have one visitor, but the NICU may consider allowing both parents to visit. We recommend asking your doctor about your particular case.
Will COVID-19 patients have to wear a mask at all times in their hospital room?
We highly encourage suspected COVID-19 or COVID-19 positive patients to wear a mask when in close proximity with healthcare providers to limit the spread of the virus.
Communication With Loved Ones
How can patients keep in contact with their loved ones?
Patients can utilize their own cell phones or technology. Additionally, all inpatient rooms have a telephone they can use to call family. We also have team members visiting with patients and helping them make calls to their loved ones if they are unable to do so on their own.
How will you keep patients’ loved ones informed about their condition?
With the permission of the patient (or following the legal documents indicating next of kin or medical power of attorney), healthcare providers are able to keep indicated individuals updated on the patient’s condition.
COVID-19 Patient Care & Treatments
How often will COVID-19 patients receive visits from care providers?
When hospitalized, patients typically see their doctor once a day, but the doctor may visit more often should the patient’s condition warrant the need to do so. Additionally, our staff members will assist patients in getting up and moving about in the room should they need support.
Also, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has enabled care providers to use phone calls or video to complete visits if needed.
What treatments do COVID-19 patients often receive after admission?
While there is not currently a proven indicated treatment (such as an antiviral medication) that cures or even shortens the duration of the virus, there are a number of experimental trials occurring. Based on current practice, we are using a medication called hydroxychloroquine, possibly with Zithromax, to treat patients at this time, but there are no significant studies available to prove its efficacy.
The majority of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 experience respiratory symptoms, so nebulizer or inhaler treatments and supplemental oxygen are provided.
At what point do patients require a ventilator or intubation?
If supplemental oxygen is not adequate to provide enough oxygenation, then a patient may require a ventilator. Being intubated and being on a ventilator are typically the same process, as patients become intubated to attach the ventilator. But the treatment heavily depends on the symptoms.
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19, such as difficulty breathing, call 911 and seek ER care immediately. Locate your nearest St. Joseph Health emergency room, so you know where to go in the event of an emergency.