by Charles Murray at Murray and Murray

A medical concern may arise for a loved one in the middle of the night, and someone decides to call for help. When an emergency strikes, we call 911. We don’t give much consideration to which hospital we use. We just know a loved one needs to be seen by a medical professional.

But not all hospitals are the same, and we must be mindful of these limitations. For example, a rural hospital may have one doctor in the Emergency Room, but no other doctor is in the building until an emergency strikes. Other doctors are on call, and it takes time to assemble the team.

A trauma center is a special designation that only some hospitals will achieve. It is ready to handle patients suffering from major traumatic injuries. The highest designation is Level 1, and the lowest is Level 3. The highest levels will have specialized medical and nursing teams across multiple fields, such as emergency, trauma, critical care, neurosurgery, cardiology and orthopedics. These centers have advanced radiology and anesthesiology staff and the most sophisticated surgical and diagnostic equipment.

On the other hand, a major hospital may not be as ready for a crisis as we expect. The Plain Dealer reported in October 2016 that although some major hospitals have some of the finest surgeons in the country, they are not prepared for crises. Because the staff schedules and prepares for surgery regularly, they are equipped to have everything go smoothly. Still, there is little time to prepare during an emergency. It is crucial to think about a plan before a crisis occurs. Is the closest hospital the best hospital to handle the situation? Should we insist on transferring the loved one to a higher-level facility? Lower-level centers may be able to stabilize someone. Still, we may need to consider transferring to the next level immediately.

We should also have emergency medical papers such as health care power of attorney forms available before the need arises. We should discuss expectations with doctors and family members to have the best opportunities for reducing anxiety and confusion.