What to expect in the ED

Learn what happens when you arrive in the Emergency Department.


When you arrive, you will first proceed through our ED front entrance and check in as a patient with the ED registration staff.  The security officer can assist you or your family if you have questions about where to park.

Triage Nurse

The triage nurse will get some basic information, including the reason for your visit, and record your vital signs before directing you to the appropriate location.

Exam Room

The triage nurse will assign you a level of illness (also known as acuity) based on the information that was collected about your condition.  Patients with the most severe illness are seen first.  The ED team will make their best effort to see you as soon as possible.  If you have a less severe illness, you may be asked to wait in the waiting room. If your symptoms worse while waiting, please inform the triage nurse.

Once you are in an exam room, you may be asked to change into a gown so you can be examined by our nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants.  You will be asked to provide your medical and surgical history as well as the current symptoms that brought you to the Ed.  You may be asked the same questions several times about topics like your medications and allergies.  This is part of the academic process of medical care and is intended to guarantee that all members of the team are aware of these important items. 

Tests and Diagnosis

Once you are assessed, the provider may order tests and treatments based on your current illness and symptoms.  Results of blood tests are typically available within 90-120 minutes.  An X-ray can take 60-120 minutes and a CT scan can take 2-4 hours for the tests to be completed and the results to be available for the medical staff, depending on the type of scan ordered. 

The Emergency Department medical staff may need to consult with a specialty physician as part of your care plan.

Once a diagnosis has been made, the ED medical staff will determine whether you can be discharged or need to be admitted.  If you can be discharged, your treatment will be complete and you will receive discharge instructions explaining what to do after leaving the Emergency Department.  This could include a follow-up with your primary care provider or other medical staff.  If you are going to be admitted, the team will request a hospital bed for you. You will be transported to that inpatient bed as soon as it becomes available.