Checking into the ER
When you walk into the waiting room, the first thing you will do is check in at the front desk. You will be asked to provide basic information, such as your name, address, date of birth and reason for the visit.
If you arrive by ambulance, the basic information (listed above) will be obtained from you or a family member. If you are unconscious and arrive alone by ambulance, medical staff will treat you immediately. They will look for identification and to see if you are wearing any medical jewelry, indicating a medical condition, such as diabetes, a heart condition, or a drug or food allergy.
In addition, if you have a cell phone, they will look to see if I.C.E (In Case of Emergency) contact information has been programmed into your contacts list. They also will look for wallet cards containing medical history, such as allergies, medicines you are taking and other information critical to know before treating you.
After checking in, you will be referred to a triage nurse, who is trained to assess the severity of your condition and determine where (some ERs have different care areas, such as a fast track) and in what priority the emergency physicians will care for you. The triage nurse will do a brief exam and check your vital signs, such as temperature and blood pressure. The most seriously ill and injured patients are always seen first in an emergency room. Patients with less serious conditions will be seen after the critically ill patients are seen first.
Tip: Tell the triage nurse ALL of your symptoms, including if you are in pain. This will help determine how quickly you need to be treated. It's possible that diagnostic tests or minor first-aid procedures, such as applying ice packs or cleaning wounds, will be ordered or done at triage.
If you are asked to wait in the waiting area, that means more critically ill patients are being treated ahead of you. Many emergency departments are crowded, especially with patients who need mission to the hospital.
Medical screening exam
Once in the treatment area, you will likely be seen by an emergency physician who will conduct a medical screening exam. The physician will ask you questions and examine you. If needed, he or she will order diagnostic tests, such as blood work, an Electrocardiogram (EKG), Xrays or CT scans, as well as coordinate consultations with other medical specialists. Once all the results are in, your treatment and course of care will be prescribed. Emergency physicians will mobilize the resources of a hospital to diagnose and treat your medical emergency. Tell the physician if you're pregnant and/or suffer from any adverse reactions.
Tip: Many emergency departments are crowded, which means you may be screened and treated in a hallway. This is not ideal, but emergency physicians and nurses will do their best to provide you with privacy and the best quality of care. Crowding is caused when emergency patients are admitted to the hospital, but are held in the emergency department until inpatient beds are available.
- If you are in pain or your symptoms worsen, alert the triage nurse right away.
- It is best not to eat or drink anything until the physician sees you and tells you that it is okay.
In case you have to wait, bring something to distract yourself, such as reading materials. If you come with a child, bring a favorite toy or book. Don't leave before you are seen by a physician, even if there are other demands on your schedule. If you can, try to avoid bringing a child to the ER (it might be uncomfortable for them) unless they are the patient or you have no other choice.