Dr. Amit KalariaEmergency Medicine

What to expect when visiting the Emergency Department

3 min read
Going to the ER can be a scary and stressful situation. What appears to be chaos however is a streamlined and efficient process to triage and prioritize patients.
Typically the first contact will be with a nurse who will ask you what brought you in to the ER. While talking, the nurse will check your vital signs which include your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood oxygenation level.
Depending on what your complaint was or if your vital signs are abnormal, further tests will be done while still in triage like obtaining an EKG or checking your blood sugar.
If there is a room available, you will be brought back to be seen. This is where you'll meet your nurse and provider. If a room isn't available, you will be asked to wait in the waiting room.
Keep in mind that although the waiting room may look empty and you may be wondering why you were not brought back, there are a lot of factors to consider.
There may be patients coming in by ambulance that have already been assigned a room, or a critical patient taking up resources. It's also possible that there are empty rooms, but not one that is appropriate for your complaint.
If you have chest pain for example, you would need a room that has cardiac monitoring available. If the only room available is the dental room in the back corner of the ER, it would be safer to keep you in the waiting room where the triage nurse can watch over you while an appropriate bed opens up.
Once you've seen the provider, further tests will be ordered. This may include blood work and radiology tests.
Typically it takes just over an hour for lab results after they're drawn, and radiology studies also take an hour once they're completed to get results. Keep in mind, this can vary depending on how busy the ER is.
After the results are back, the provider will speak with you about the findings and the next steps whether it be admission, observation, or discharge. If being discharged, follow up information and appropriate prescriptions will be provided for you and often your primary care doctor will be notified.
Keep in mind that it's very important to follow up with your doctor after an ER visit. They will continue the care received in the ER and help you on your way to recovery!