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What to Expect when you Visit the ER

At some point in every person’s life a trip to the hospital emergency room will be necessary. Medical emergencies can be very stressful for an individual. Knowledge and being prepared may help to ease the mind of the person experiencing the medical emergency. Hospital emergency rooms have the same basic set up and process throughout the country.

When a person experiences a medical emergency and needs professional medical attention the hospital is the best option for that individual. Medical emergencies can range from mild to severe and a hospital emergency room is prepared for a wide variety of cases. From illness to injury, an emergency room and its staff offers a multitude of treatments and options for almost every type of emergency that comes through its’ doors.

There are several ways a person can be taken to an emergency room. Arrival at an emergency room can be by personal vehicle, ambulance, helicopter, and even walking. The process throughout the person’s visit to the emergency room is basically the same regardless of the way they arrived to the emergency room however; some of this process may be done by paramedics or emts if the individual is taken into the emergency room by an ambulance or flown in by helicopter. The first thing that must be done when someone arrives at the emergency room is registration.

Inside every emergency room is a waiting, registration, and patient triage area. Locating the registration area is the first thing that a person arriving at the emergency room needs to do. Depending on the setup of that particular hospital and the amount of patients in the emergency and waiting rooms, a person will either be asked to sign in on a list or be able to immediately register. Name, symptoms the person is experiencing which brought them to the emergency room (or chief complaint), and the arrival time will be written on the sign in sheet. When able to register a person will give personal information about themselves and their insurance company. Copies of all insurance cards will be made by the registrar and the person will be asked to verify information and sign forms allowing the person to be seen and treated.

After the registration process is finished a person may be asked to go to the waiting room/area until they can be triaged. The triage process consists of an emergency room staff member, often a nurse or patient care technician, looking at each person and asking questions about their symptoms. The more severe the symptoms and overall condition the quicker the person will be seen by emergency room doctors and nurses. This does not mean that a person should exaggerate their condition in order to be seen faster. The staff member working in triage will determine whether or not the symptoms being described need immediate attention or can wait until patients with more serious conditions have been seen by the doctors. Although the person experiencing the medical emergency may feel that their condition is grave it is up to the trained medical staff to make the decision on the order patients need to be seen by doctors. It may be difficult for a person to accept that their condition may not be as severe as they believe. The triage staff member is a trained professional and will evaluate each person and their condition accordingly.

Once a person has been triaged he/she may be immediately taken into the emergency room or once again asked to go to the waiting room/area until their name is called to be seen and evaluated in the emergency room. When the name of the individual experiencing the medical emergency is called he/she will be escorted inside the emergency room and asked to go to a particular area and wait to be seen, usually by a nurse first. Inside the emergency room, one may see other patients, staff members, equipment, etc. needed to provide the best possible care to each patient. When the nurse arrives they will ask a variety of questions pertaining to the individual’s current symptoms, past medical history, medications, and allergies as well as other questions that will provide them with a complete picture of what the person is experiencing.

The nurse will take a full set of vital signs including but not limited to pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate, and temperature. The nurse will assess each individual, do a physical exam if necessary, and report all findings to the emergency room doctors. A person’s condition may require further testing such as x-rays, blood tests, heart monitor, MRI or CT scans before a complete diagnoses and prognosis can be made. These tests may be completed prior to being seen by a physician or after depending on severity of the person’s condition. Nurses may initiate necessary treatments, such as inserting an IV, giving medications, or cleaning wounds, before the individual is seen by the emergency room physician.

An emergency room physician will see the patients after the initial vital signs are taken, symptoms are reported by the nurse and necessary testing has been completed. The physician needs all of this information and may even require additional information before a diagnosis can be made. The emergency room doctor will then determine the proper treatments needed by the person to treat their condition as well as any additional testing. The doctor will make a diagnosis, decide treatment options, and may consult specialists in order to provide the best care for the individual experiencing the medical emergency. The emergency room physician will also make the determination if a person’s condition requires he/she be admitted to the hospital or if he/she will be able to return home once the treatments are finished.

If the person is able to return home following their emergency room visit they will be discharged. Prescriptions may be written and orders for additional out patient testing may be necessary. The physician may ask to see the individual again after several days to assure that the treatments are working and that the person’s condition is improving. The doctor may suggest that a follow up appointment is made with the person’s primary care physician (regular family doctor) allowing their personal doctor to continue evaluation and assessment of the person’s condition.

After signing the discharge papers, getting all necessary prescriptions, orders for further testing, and a condition summary (list of information about the condition,) is given to the person, he/she may leave the emergency room and return home. By following the doctor’s orders as they were given a person will increase the chances that their condition will resolve or injuries heal properly. No one wants to experience a medical emergency however, being prepared for what is to come may help alleviate some of the stress and worries that can occur when a medical emergency happens. As they saying goes It is better to be safe than sorry and any time a medical problem or injury occurs it is a good idea to be seen by medical professionals. Hospital emergency rooms are open 24/7 and will see any person who needs medical attention.