Common sense can keep you out of the ER this season |

Common sense can keep you out of the ER this season

Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

In French, it's: "et le bon sens." In German: "und gesondem Menshenverstand." In Spanish: "y el sentido común."

In English, this translates to "and common sense."

In any language, it's the one thing most likely to keep you out of the Emergency Room, according to Dr. Brian Evans, vice president for medical affairs at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH).

He is hoping that people will apply it in great measure as summer approaches, when the urge for heroic action tends to overtake winter's more cautious states of mind. Because summer makes overweight men want to climb ladders, desk-bound women want to hike the High Sierra Trail, and children want to swim until their skin is baked crispy by the hot sun.

"My world would be much closer to perfect if people would just step back and decide not to take that next drink, or borrow the neighbor's chain saw, or pass that slow RV on a mountain road," Evans said.

Accidents are unavoidable, he concedes. But as an emergency medicine specialist of many years, and former medical director of the Emergency Department at SNMH, he knows that much of the human ruin that comes to the ER doesn't have to be there.

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"I'm always amazed at what some individuals think they can accomplish on weekends and summer vacations, and in flip-flops," Evans said. "We see healthy people all day long that have fallen off decks or ladders, or who try a friend's dirt bike even though they've never ridden before."

Evans made a list of ways people can likely avoid being a patient in the ER.

Don't drink until you're drunk, or even close to it.

Know when you're too out of shape for contact sports.

Hire someone else to do those home repairs.

Don't let yourself get too overweight – it puts you at all kinds of risk.

Drive carefully – really.

Dress appropriately for the weather and the activity.

Take steps to avoid falling, especially if you're elderly.

Stop smoking. It does nothing but harm to your body.

"These are all common sense notions," he stated. "But many of them are the underlying reasons that people wind up in the ER."

When you can't think of a reason why you shouldn't cut that tree down by yourself, or replace some roof tiles, or play for the company softball team, you can always take one more measure of assessment, he said.

"Ask your wife. That's what I do. She'll give me an honest opinion about whether I should do a job myself or farm it out. If there's any doubt in your mind, pick up your phone instead of that skill saw," he said.

The good news is that the ER at SNMH will be prepared for you should you ever have the need. In fact, approximately 2,500 patients are seen each month in the hospital's emergency room.

"The quality of care here is really exceptional for a community of our size and distance from a metropolitan area," said Evans. "Every physician on staff in the ED is board certified in emergency medicine, and this isn't always the case at other emergency rooms."

Likewise, many of the registered nurses in the department have earned national nursing board certification in emergency medicine.

"Obviously, speed is also of the essence," said Evans.

The average time between walking through the doors of the Emergency Department and being seen by a triage nurse is nine minutes at SNMH. The average time to be seen by a physician or ER provider is just 20 minutes from arrival, which is significantly faster than the California average of 30 minutes based on Medicare results on

"When we reach capacity, we open a second treatment area so that patients can see doctors as quickly as possible."

"We advocate common sense as the best defense against an ER visit," he said. "But we're going to be there for you, no matter what brought you to our door."

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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