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What to Expect at the ER

We know that an emergency visit can be a stressful, anxious time because of unfamiliar people, surroundings and experiences. It is our hope that this overview will give you a clear understanding of Fairview Hospital Emergency Department and answer some common questions about your medical care.

Step One: Assessment and Triage

Upon arrival at the Emergency Department, you will sign-in at the registration desk. You will have the opportunity to describe your medical problem to a registered nurse who will listen and ask questions. The nurse will rapidly assess your condition. This is called triage. By using this information, patients are seen in the order of the severity of their medical condition. As a result, a patient experiencing chest pain or some other life-threatening condition may be moved to the treatment area rapidly for immediate medical intervention.

Tips to Remember:

  • From the time you sign-in, you will be assigned a nurse who will track your condition during your stay in the Emergency Department.
  • Your nurse is your advocate. We encourage you to tell your nurse about any change in your condition and ask questions if you have any concerns.
  • If you are experiencing pain when you arrive, please tell the triage nurse. If your pain increases after you have signed in, please tell a nurse.
  • If you feel you have been waiting a long time without any communication, ask the triage nurse to give you an update on where you are on the list.

FastER Care is a service available from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. for patients with minor illness or injury. The triage nurse will decide if your medical condition is appropriate for this level of care. If you are unsure whether you would benefit from FastER Care, please ask.

Step Two: Treatment

Once your name is called, you will be escorted to a room in the treatment area. You will change into a patient gown and then be seated or lie down. A physician will see you, usually within 30 minutes. There is a specially trained Emergency Medicine physician on duty in the department 24-hours a day.

As Fairview Hospital is a teaching institution, a resident physician in training, a student, or a physician’s assistant may initiate your care. The attending physician supervises all care. Once seen by a physician, lab tests or x-rays may be ordered.

Tips to Remember:

  • Family members are allowed to stay with you during your time in the Emergency Department. On occasion a nurse will request that your family stay in the waiting room during certain examinations or procedures.
  • Depending on your medical needs, you may see a variety of medical professionals including physician specialists; lab, EKG or x-ray technician; or respiratory therapist.
  • Please do not eat or drink anything until you check with your nurse. Oftentimes, food or beverages will not be allowed until the Emergency Department physician has received test results. Eating worsens some conditions, and eating or drinking may delay certain tests or surgery.
  • The Emergency Department can be a busy environment and it is often difficult to distinguish the various personnel. If you are uncertain as to whom your caregivers are, please do not hesitate to ask.
  • If at any time you have a question or concern, please ask to speak with the attending physician.
  • Please do not hesitate to use the nurse call button if you need to communicate with your nurse.
  • Some lab tests may take some time processing; therefore, your time in the Emergency Department may take four hours or more.
  • Amenities such as pillows, blankets and even a television are all available for you during this time.
Step Three: Disposition

This is the term we use to describe the final outcome of your visit. At this point you will be discharged home or admitted to the hospital for further treatment.

If you are discharged home:

  • The physician will explain the results of tests and the diagnosis and treatment.
  • The physician will leave to prepare your discharge order and instructions. Because these are customized for every patient, it can take up to 20 minutes to prepare.
  • The discharge instructions will include a description of at-home care, and prescriptions if needed.
  • If you are prescribed medications, we have an outpatient pharmacy conveniently located adjacent to the parking garage. It is open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays. We also can provide you with a list of area pharmacies, several of which are open 24 hours.
  • When ready, the nurse will review the instructions with you, answer any questions and obtain your signature.
  • If you need clarification on your medical treatment and follow-up instructions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

If you are admitted to the hospital:

  • You will be taken to a room once your physician is contacted, a chart is prepared (usually by your primary care physician or a specialist if needed) and a bed on the appropriate medical floor is available and prepared for you.
  • At times when the hospital is particularly busy, the appropriate room may not be immediately available. Under such circumstances, we will do our best to make you as comfortable as possible in the Emergency Department and keep you updated on your room status.