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What You Need to Know About Your Visit to the ER

What You Need to Know About Your Visit to the ER

By Janet Frank

May 4, 2017

Updated Oct 25, 2023

5 min read

What You Need to Know About Your Visit to the ER

Most patients who come to the Emergency Room, also known as the Emergency Department, will be asked to wait after reviewing their condition with a triage nurse. Patients need to remember what they do in the waiting room may impact the rest of their visit:

  • Eating/Drinking: In the Emergency Department, we may need to do tests/procedures to rule out various illnesses. Some of these tests require patients to have an empty stomach. If you’d like to eat/drink something while you wait, please talk with an Emergency Department staff member prior to doing so.
  • Restroom: If you need to use the restroom while in the waiting room, please notify a staff member. The staff may want to collect a sample.
  • Medications: Medications can have many adverse side effects and require that patients be watched closely on a monitor. We refrain from giving pain medication in the waiting room for your safety. After a provider evaluates you, he or she will be able to give you appropriate medication and you will be closely monitored for side effects.
  • Pain control: We strive to keep each patient comfortable. Items we can provide at any time during your Emergency Department visit to help address your pain include: heat packs, pillows, ice packs, blankets, ear plugs and eye masks. We can’t guarantee you’ll be pain free during your stay, but we’ll do all that we can to help make you feel more comfortable.
  • Mask: If you have a cough, fever, or any flu-like symptoms, we ask that you wear a mask. By wearing a mask, you protect others from being exposed to illness.

An Emergency Department Visit Takes Time

An average Emergency Department stay is 3 to 5 hours. A visit may be more or less depending on the tests and plan of care the physician chooses for each patient. Circumstances such as critical patients who come to the Emergency Department unexpectedly or a large volume of patients can increase the length of your visit.

RELATED: InstaCare vs ER

The Quantity and Type of Tests Influence the Length of Your Visit

Radiology, labs, or any other tests done in the Emergency Department take an hour or more to complete. All tests must be completed before the physician can interpret and determine an appropriate plan of care. Every test a physician adds to the initial plan of care increases the length of your visit. If admitted, it can take 1 to 2 hours to consult with the admitting physician, have the admitting physician evaluate your condition, and receive a bed on the appropriate floor of the hospital.

Why Some Patients Are Seen Before Others in the Emergency Department

Some patients may be seen before you, even if they arrived after you did. After the triage nurse assesses each person, he or she makes a determination regarding the severity of each patient. Patients in the Emergency Department are seen by the severity of their symptoms and vital signs and not by wait time. We understand this process can increase or change your wait time and we appreciate your patience. If your condition worsens, please notify the nursing staff.

Emergency Department Caregivers Want to Help

During your stay, you’ll see many staff members. Each caregiver wears something different:

  • Physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners: Green scrubs or professional clothing
  • Nurses: Navy blue scrubs
  • Emergency Department techs: Light grey scrubs

All of our doctors are board-certified emergency medicine physicians. They can run a variety of tests and procedures in an effort to determine what is causing your symptoms. Occasionally, they’re unable to figure out an exact cause.

In these instances, you’ll be asked to follow up with a physician after leaving the Emergency Department to continue the process of diagnosis and treatment. It’s extremely important that you follow Emergency Department discharge instructions.