Health Care

Your ER Experience: What to Expect at Every Step

A little boy hugs his teddy bear while in the hospital.
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If you’re a fan of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” you're likely drawn in by that dramatized depiction of the emergency room: The sirens, the bright lights and the rush of medical teams to someone's side. Medical dramas, both of fiction and of real-life accounts, tell emotionally charged stories about moments that test the human body in mind, body and spirit, bringing compassion and hope when every minute counts.

Although no one ever wants to have to go to the hospital, these television shows might, in some way, help prepare you for a real medical emergency. However, medical dramas also spread lots of misinformation. In fact, real-life emergency rooms are very different than those on your screen.

We know that when going to the emergency department, you might feel fearful or overwhelmed, especially when you don't know what to expect. While you can never be fully prepared, we want to share some insight into what you might expect during an emergency room visit to help ease your mind.

What to Expect in the ER and How Our Team Cares for You

When You Arrive

When you walk through the doors of an emergency department, you'll see the waiting and registration areas. The amount of people waiting to be seen in an emergency department ebbs and flows and, if you come at a peak time, it might be very busy. Remember that everyone is there for a variety of reasons, and the staff are trained to help get you seen as quickly as possible.

At AdventHealth, our emergency departments are very diligent in creating the most calming and welcoming environment possible while working hard to minimize wait times. Due to the unpredictable nature of medical emergencies, emergency departments must see the most critical patients first, which means there could be a wait on any given day. However, our teams will do our best to meet your needs in a timely manner.

Getting You Registered

After you arrive, you'll be greeted by a registration representative who will ask some questions and enter your information into the system. The goal is to start your care as quickly as possible. Having this information helps the nurses initiate your care.

During your registration, you can expect to share information like:

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Mailing address
  • Name of primary care doctor
  • Photo ID
  • Reason for your emergency department visit

Your Care Begins

Once you’re registered and our team is ready for you, you'll see a nurse who will review your:

  • Acuity scale of your visit (from most life-threatening, or 1, to least life-threatening, or 5)
  • Chief complaint (reason for your visit to the emergency room)
  • Symptoms
  • Vitals (blood pressure, pulse and temperature)

Your Evaluation With a Medical Provider

Next, you’ll be seen by a medical provider in an appropriate space in the emergency room. Most of the time, people are placed in a room, but you might be evaluated in another treatment space within the emergency room.

Depending on the reason for your visit, you could be seen by an emergency medicine physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner, in addition to registered nurses and emergency room staff that are part of your care team. After your team talks to you and your family, they can develop plan of care that best fits your needs.

Diagnostic Tests Are Done, if Needed

Your plan of care could include monitoring, observation and other medical tests that will help the team learn more about your health, such as:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Labs
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays

Most of these diagnostic tests can be performed in the emergency room, but sometimes people are transported to another area within the hospital. You may also be provided a prescription to have a diagnostic test completed on an outpatient basis and asked to follow up with your primary care doctor after leaving the emergency department.

Determining the Best Place for Your Care

Once all testing is completed, an emergency room medical provider can determine where the best place for you to receive care will be, based on your needs. You could be treated in the emergency room, transitioned to follow up with primary care outside of the hospital or need further evaluation and care within the hospital. Typically, most people don’t need to be admitted to the hospital and can receive follow up care with a different provider on an outpatient basis.

Our goal at the emergency department is to stabilize and guide each person to the right plan of care moving forward. Our caring, experienced staff do their best to attend to each patient and family's every need within their ability by doing rounds in the emergency room and keeping each patient and family informed with progress, updates and care plans.

Your Follow-Up Care

Our emergency department offers you initial treatment, but that’s just the first step in your care. You’ll have follow-up care that includes making an appointment to see your primary care doctor within a specific timeframe or coordinating further diagnostic testing, if needed. For some illnesses, our team members may follow up with you after you return home to see how you’re feeling, if you have followed up with your primary care doctor and help you overcome any challenges in doing so.

We’re also dedicated to helping patients that do not have a primary care doctor establish one, so that your care is streamlined. The AdventHealth network of care means you have quick access to some of the most experienced physicians and specialists in nearly every practice area — all close to home. Because you deserve to heal in body, mind and spirit, long after your emergency visit.

Emergency Room Preparation Tips

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect at every step in the emergency room, here are some helpful emergency preparation reminders.

If You Think You Need Emergency Care, Don't Hesitate to Go

If you’re questioning whether you or a loved one need immediate care, you shouldn't hesitate to go to your closest emergency room. It’s always best to be on the safe side, and to have trained medical professionals address your health needs.

Together With Your Family, Make a Plan for Emergencies

Create a plan for how you and your family will respond to different levels of medical emergencies in the future. Make sure each family member knows when to call 911, when to go to the emergency room and when urgent care could be the best option for care.

Here are some things to include in your family's medical emergency plan: 

  • Emergency room address, driving directions and phone number
  • Family call/contact lists
  • Items to pack (phone charger, book, tablet, personal items, identification, insurance cards and comfort items, for example)
  • Parking instructions
  • Preferred emergency room and urgent care center names (this could include pediatric and adult emergency rooms for different members of your family)

For life-threatening medical emergencies, like any possible head or spinal cord injury, accident, heart attack or stroke, never delay in calling 911 immediately for the fastest response and medical attention.

Throughout your community, the AdventHealth network of care includes emergency room locations to meet immediate needs. For injuries or illnesses that don't require emergency attention, we also have urgent care centers available near you.

Maintain Your Family Health Records and Documentation

Keeping a copy of you and your family's medications and dosages, vaccinations, allergies, insurance card, personal identification and other important health records accessible in your wallet or purse could be extremely helpful to first responders and emergency medicine care teams during an emergency.

The faster that our responders and care teams have this information, the faster they can facilitate the best possible care for you or a family member. During a time that will inherently be stressful, having this information on hand will help to reduce added pressure to gather it.

We’re Here for You and Your Family in Any Medical Emergency

Your AdventHealth emergency department is staffed with experienced doctors, nurses and medical professionals who are ready to help anyone in a medical emergency, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what.

To be prepared for any emergency, find the AdventHealth emergency department near you.

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