What to Expect When Visiting the Emergency Room

Horizontal Closeup of Doctor Holding Stethoscope

Hospital emergency rooms are often busy places. People come to the emergency room (or ER) with problems that are sudden or potentially severe enough to cause disability, death, or other serious consequences. These include heart attacks, strokes, asthma flare-ups, injuries, and mental or emotional issues.

Understanding how doctors, nurses, and other providers offer care in the ER will help you get the best treatment possible at your next visit.   

When you arrive
When you come to the ER, a staff member – typically a nurse – will examine you to get a sense of the severity of your illness or injury. This process is called triage . It allows providers to quickly start treating the more serious cases. The triage provider will likely:

  • Ask you about your symptoms
  • Discuss your history of medical problems, whether you have allergies, and what medications you’re currently taking
  • Measure your vital signs such as your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure

This step only takes place if you come to the ER on your own or a friend or family member brings you. You’ll be treated more quickly if you’re unconscious or arrive by ambulance.

Getting into the system
If your illness or injury doesn’t require immediate treatment, you may register at this point. This requires giving an ER staff member your name, address, and other basic information, along with your health insurance information. (If you don’t have insurance, hospitals are required to still provide emergency care.)

Waiting to see a doctor
ERs provide treatment first to the people who are sickest or most badly hurt. So people who arrived after you may get to see a medical provider before you if they’re in more serious condition. In the meantime, visitors to the ER remain in a waiting room.

If your symptoms are growing worse while you’re in the waiting room, be sure to let the triage nurse know.

Getting treatment
An ER doctor – or other specialist in the hospital who may be consulted for your case – will examine you to diagnose and treat your health problem. Depending on your illness or injury, this may involve:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan
  • Tests to see how well your heart is working

The emergency room doctor may provide a treatment for your problem – such as a cast for a broken bone or a medication for an illness – and discharge you so you can return home. But if you have a serious issue that needs more monitoring and treatment, you may be admitted to the hospital.

The staff of specialty physicians and emergency health care professionals at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center serves the community around the clock. You can learn more about our advanced and comprehensive emergency care services by calling (818) 676-4000 today. You can also get our emergency room wait times sent directly to your mobile phone by texting ‘ER’ to 23000 and responding with your West Hills zip code.

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