Keeping Warm in the Emergency Department

Emergency Department
Emergency Department

A visit to the emergency department (ER) can be extremely stressful, especially during times like these, for many different reasons.

With the current COVID pandemic, many hospitals have revised general visitation guidelines limiting visits by family, caregivers and patient advocates. 

For example, some hospitals only allow a pregnant woman or a child under the age of 18 years old to have someone with them in the hospital, even in the ER.

Without anyone there to help ensure their “voice” is being heard, patients need to advocate for themselves as much as possible. For us “Frosties,” the cold temperatures can make an ER visit quite a chilly experience and for some a very painful one.

So why are emergency departments so cold? Some reasons include: To prevent the spread of germs, to cool down ER machines, to facilitate storage of drugs and blood products, to keep patients in bed, to reduce humidity, and to comfort hospital staff while dealing with the ongoing stressful environment.

Keeping our bodies warm in the ER is very important, not just for our own comfort, but for the accuracy of many diagnostic tests. These tests play a vital role in determining treatment and a care plan. For example, taking vital signs and obtaining blood are essential tools used during and after the triage process.

Currently hospitals provide warm cotton blankets to help keep patients comfortable and temporarily warm, especially in the ER. However, for Raynaud’s sufferers, warm blankets may not be enough. Patient surveys on the quality of care received in the ER show that the “Environment of Care” (which relates to amenities in the department, inclusive of privacy, blankets, pillows, food) ranks third in patient satisfaction. But how can the ER meet personal comfort needs especially for us Frosties? 

Patient warming systems have been around to support pre/post-operative procedures for many years. For example, patient gowns are connected to a force-air warming system which is used to maintain a patient’s core body temperature, also known as Normothermia. A warming unit is connected by a flexible hose to a single-use blanket that transfers warm air across the surface of a patient’s skin. 

For patients who suffer with severe Raynaud’s attacks, these warming systems can address the cold temperatures in the ER and provide comfort and eliminate pain.

Hospitals look for ways and products to improve and maintain the quality and safety of care in a cost-effective manner. The use of these warming systems into other areas of the hospital (ER) will not only reduce laundry expenses, but have been shown to reduce rates of infection, increase wound healing, decrease postoperative myocardial infarction and shortened length of stay. Sounds like a win-win situation for the patient and the hospital. 

So next time you’re a patient in an Emergency Department or an inpatient, ask for a warming system blanket, (for example, a 3M Bair Hugger™), and experience the comfort and warmth of this terrific concept!