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What to Expect in the Emergency Room (ER)

You or a loved one may have had an accident or serious illness. If so, you are likely to be worried and afraid. Knowing more about the emergency room (ER) can help you feel less anxious.

Man and woman in emergency room talking to healthcare provider.

What is the emergency room (ER)?

The ER is a department in a hospital or medical center. There you don't need an appointment. But that means many people may need treatment at the same time. In that case, the most serious problems are treated first. If you feel that your condition has changed while you are waiting, tell the nurse who decides on order of treatment (triage). 

When you arrive at the ER

You'll talk to a triage nurse as soon as you arrive. This is a nurse trained in emergency care. They will ask about your problem. The nurse will also check your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. You'll see a healthcare provider right away if your injury or illness is severe. Otherwise, you may be asked to wait. People who are more seriously ill are treated first. While you wait, you may have X-rays or lab work done.

Your emergency care

In the ER, a healthcare provider or team of providers and nurses will care for you. You may have X-rays or blood work. Or other tests. You will need to wait for the results of any tests you have. You also may wait to see a healthcare provider who specializes in treating your specific problem. In the meantime, you will be made as comfortable as possible. If your condition changes, let your provider or nurse know right away. They may tell you they want to keep you so you can be watched, but not be admitted to the hospital. Have someone check with your health insurance company about whether that service is covered.

Going home

You may be admitted to the hospital if you are very ill or need further evaluation or treatment. But you often can be treated right in the ER. Before a friend or family member takes you home, you'll be given written directions about how to care for yourself. You may also be given prescriptions for any medicines you need. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider or nurse if you have any questions about the care you received. Also, if you need additional directions about the care you need after leaving the ER, or about your prescriptions. If possible, get a copy of your test results and any treatments received. in the ER to keep for your records. These can be printed. Or gotten through an electronic medical portal. Bring this information with you to any follow-up appointments.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2022
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