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Article Type: Blog

Emergency Room 101: What to Expect and How to Prepare

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Sitting on the edge of your couch, you're likely drawn in by the wonder of what goes on in the TV-depicted emergency room. The sirens. The bright lights. 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 be in these emergent situations, these TV stories might, in some way, help you prepare if you ever have an emergency.

However, medical dramas also spread lots of misinformation.  In fact, real-life emergency rooms are very different than those on TV. AdventHealth recognizes that you might feel fearful or overwhelmed, especially when you don't know what to expect.

While you can never be fully prepared, here we share insight into what you might expect during an emergency room visit and some tips to help reduce stress and improve your experience.

What to Expect in the ER

Arrival

When you walk through the doors of an emergency department, you'll see the waiting and registration areas.  Try not to be overwhelmed if there are people waiting.  The traffic in an ER 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, there could be a wait on any given day.

Registration

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 will enable the nurses to initiate your care in Triage.

During registration, expect to share the following information:

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

Care Begins

Once you are registered your care begins.

You'll see a nurse who will review your:

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

Evaluation

Next, you are brought back into the emergency room, and are seen by a medical provider in an appropriate space. Most of the time you'll be 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 evaluated 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 will develop an individualized plan of care.

Individualized Care Plan

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

  • X-rays
  • Labs
  • Cat Scan
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • EKG

Most of these diagnostic tests can be performed in the emergency room, but sometimes patients are transported to another location 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.

Once all testing is completed, an emergency room medical provider determines whether you can be treated in the emergency room, transitioned to follow up with primary care outside of the hospital, or needs further evaluation and care within the hospital. On average, 70 percent of patients go home from the emergency department and around 30 percent get admitted to the hospital.

Our goal at the emergency department is to stabilize and guide each person to the right plan of care moving forward. Highly 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.

Follow-Up

It's important to know that the emergency department provides initial treatment and patients should have follow-up care that includes making an appointment to see their primary care doctor within a specific time frame, or coordinating further specialist or diagnostic testing as appropriate.

In addition, AdventHealth helps patients that do not have a primary care doctor establish one to achieve continuity of care. The AdventHealth Care Network offers patients throughout the community quick access to some of the local areas most experienced physicians and specialists in nearly every practice area. Our approach is to help patients achieve their full health potential beyond our emergency department.

For some illnesses, AdventHealth staff follow up with patients after returning home to see how they are feeling, if they have followed up with their primary care doctor, and help them overcome any challenges in doing so.

Emergency Room Preparation Tips

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect at the emergency room, here are some helpful emergency preparation Don'ts:

Don't Hesitate

If you are questioning whether you need to go to an emergency room, you shouldn't hesitate in going to be evaluated. It is always best to be safe and have trained medical professionals assess your health and provide guidance.

Plan

Research your local emergency departments and have a plan for how you and your family will respond to different levels of medical emergencies in the future. Know when to call 9-1-1, when to go to the emergency room and when urgent care could be the best option for care.

For life-threatening medical emergencies, like any possible head or spinal cord injury, accident, heart attack or stroke, never delay in calling 9-1-1 immediately for the fastest response and medical attention.

Throughout your community, AdventHealth Care Network includes emergency room locations. Or for injuries or illnesses that don't require emergency-level attention, AdventHealth offers Centra Care Urgent Care locations to help.

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

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

Maintain Your Family Health Records and Documentation

Keeping a copy of your and your family's medications/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 quicker 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.

The ER is a Place of Hope

It's important to know that the emergency department is staffed with very qualified doctors, nurses and medical professionals ready to help anyone that comes into its doors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter what.

The emergency department serves such an important role in our communities it isn't a scary place like what you might see on TV.

Familiarize yourself with your local AdventHealth Emergency Room, Centra Care Urgent Care, and AdventHealth Express Care at Walgreens and plan ahead to stay calm if you ever need to use them.

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