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Frequently Asked Questions



When should I go to the ER?
Certain conditions require a visit to the ER. Don't hesitate to come to the ER if you or a loved one experiences the following:

  • New onset of difficulty breathing.
  • Symptoms of a heart attack, including severe chest pain, sweating and shortness of breath.
  • Profuse bleeding or blood loss that continues even after direct pressure has been placed on the wound.
  • Severe abdominal pain.
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, loss of coordination, balance or vision problems.
  • High fever and vomiting that continues nonstop for several hours.
  • Signs of meningitis: severe headaches, neck/joint pain and stiffness, vomiting, high temperature, sensitivity to light (adults): high-pitched whimpering/crying, lethargy, fussiness, restlessness, high fever, vomiting, cold extremities, refusing food, pale or blotch skin (babies, small children).
  • Seizures lasting longer than five minutes.
  • Injuries occurring from an accident or fall - intense back or neck pain, obvious compound fracture and/or dislocations of bones, deep cuts, severe burns, or any neurological deficit (confusion).

These are just examples and do not include all life threatening symptoms.

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What Happens When I Arrive at the Emergency Department?
You will be assessed by a triage nurse upon your arrival.

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What is a Triage Nurse?
A triage nurse differentiates the urgent and less-urgent cases by assessing the patients' symptoms. In order to evaluate the seriousness of an illness or injury, the triage nurse will ask basic personal and health questions, take vital signs (i.e., pulse, blood pressure, temperature and respirations) and will then perform a brief physical assessment.

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What Happens When the Triage Nurse is Finished?
If the illness or injury requires immediate attention, the patient will be taken to the treatment area right away. If the illness or injury is less severe, you will be asked to have a seat until you are called to registration.

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What is the Purpose of Registration?
You will be asked to provide certain information that we are required by federal regulations to collect from all patients seen in the emergency department, including accurate address and phone number. We also will collect your insurance information. You will be asked to sign a consent form, allowing the emergency department staff to treat you. The form also allows the release of any information requested by your insurance company.

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How Long Will Treatment Take?
The very best care takes time. The length of time for treatment depends on a number of factors:

  • the seriousness of the illness or injury;
  • the number and types of tests or procedures necessary;
  • the number of patients who are currently being treated in the emergency department;
  • the need for specialist consultation

Each of these factors plays a key role in your treatment time. Please feel free to ask your nurse what is happening as you're being treated; yet please keep in mind that the nurse cannot tell you when you will be discharged. To ensure that we provide the most accurate diagnosis and treatment available, it is necessary to wait until tests are completed. Patients with life-threatening conditions such as stroke, heart attack or traumatic injuries are seen first.

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Can a Family Member or Friend Go Back to the Treatment Area With Me?
Due to the intense work environment, limited space and the need to maintain privacy for each patient, our policy is to allow only one visitor with each patient. Exceptions may be made for children and for those patients who need a translator. Visitation is at the staff's discretion. Visitors must stay at your bedside and not in the hallways in order to provide privacy and safety for the entire department.

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What is EMTALA?
EMTALA stands for the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. It is a complex federal law that applies to all hospitals that have emergency departments. If you come to our emergency department for emergency treatment, it requires that we screen your condition to determine whether you have an emergency medical condition or are in active labor. If either of these conditions exist, and if we have the capability of doing so, we will stabilize your condition before we obtain any information from you about your ability to pay. We have a sign posted in our emergency department that more specifically explains your rights under this important law.

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Why do patients have to wait for treatment in the emergency department?
People wait in the emergency department for many reasons. Some of these include:

  • Waiting while the sickest patients are seen first
  • Overcrowding due to epidemics such as the flu or ambulance diversions. Also, unlike a doctor's office where appointments are scheduled, many emergency patients may arrive at once.
  • Waiting for radiology and laboratory results. (Some test results take longer than others.)
  • Waiting for consultations from specialist physicians.
  • Patients remaining longer than expected in the emergency department waiting to be admitted.

Some patients may wait longer than we would like, but we do our best to make sure the sickest patients are seen first and that all patients are treated as quickly as possible.

An empty waiting room doesn't mean that the emergency department is not busy assisting patients. For example, patients who arrive by ambulance enter the emergency department through a different entrance. Also, many important "behind the scene" activities take place in the emergency department that patients do not always see, such as processing lab and other test results.

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Why do some patients get seen before others?
We must care for critical patients with life-threatening conditions first. If you have a minor illness or injury, you may have to wait while sicker or more severely injured patients are seen first.

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How long does it take to get laboratory and radiology results?
To accurately diagnose your condition, we need time to review any lab and radiology tests. Most laboratory and radiology results could take approximately two hours. However, some tests take longer to process than others.

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Who provides care and medical treatment?
As a patient in the emergency department, you will be cared for by a team of highly skilled professionals. These include the following:

A medical doctor (M.D.) has overall responsibility for your care. Doctors talk to the laboratory, nurses, midlevels and other doctors as necessary.

A midlevel (ARNP or PA) works with your physician to determine your plan of care.

A registered nurse (R.N.) or Paramedic will assess and monitor your physical condition, give you your medication, maintain your IV and keep you and your family informed of any tests and procedures. They will also provide you with important discharge information before you go home. Each nurse is responsible for several patients and works very closely with your doctor to provide the best care possible for you.

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What happens when patients are discharged?
When discharged, we provide instructions for follow-up care and a number to call if you have continued problems. You may be instructed to follow us with your primary care physician. You will be responsible for your own transportation home and may not be allowed to drive an automobile if you have received certain medications.

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