Five Steps of Emergency Care

Sudden illness or injury can occur without warning, and while no one typically plans a trip to the emergency department (ED), everyone should know what to expect after they arrive.

Step 1 – Triage

When you arrive at the ED on your own and not in an ambulance, you will first go through a triage process. A triage nurse will assess the severity of your condition, based on your symptoms, medical history and vital signs, such as body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Triage helps ensure that critically ill patients are seen first. That is why a physician may see another patient before you, even though that patient arrived at the ED.

Step 2 – Registration

The registration process is important for two reasons: it lets the ED staff gather information for your patient record and obtain your consent for treatment. Both are necessary for ordering diagnostic tests to enable the physician to determine your best treatment option. Our admitting staff will assist you with the registration process, and will ask for your insurance information. If you are uninsured, we have financial counselors and other resources available to help.

Step 3 – Treatment

Every patient receives treatment from an attending physician or mid-level practitioner. Depending on your condition, a registered nurse may start an intravenous (IV) line. The IV line will allow the nursing staff to quickly administer medications or fluids that may be ordered by a physician. A nurse or technician may also take blood or urine samples, or they may send you for an X-ray or other imaging test before a physician sees you.

NNMC offers advanced technology to help doctors and staff diagnose your condition quicker so you can get the treatment you need as soon as possible. Diagnostic tests may include laboratory tests, X-rays, scans, imaging or other tests that will help your physician decide on the best course of treatment. Physicians may also order blood tests on an urgent basis. Test results help emergency medicine physicians assess your condition. The results could be available within one to two hours, while you are in the ED. However, some test results may require a longer wait. During your treatment, the staff in the ED will help make sure you are comfortable and informed.

Step 4 – Reevaluation

Your condition will be reevaluated after test results come back because the results may give the physician additional insight into the type of treatment you need. How you feel can be just as important as your test results, so be sure to let physicians or nurses know about any pain or discomfort you may feel.The staff may also contact your primary care physician for additional information. If you do not have a primary care physician, we may refer you to an on-call physician. After the reevaluation, the attending physician determines whether you should be admitted to the hospital or treated and sent home.

Step 5 – Discharge

Part of our job is to keep you healthy long after you’ve left the ED. All patients receive written home-care instructions to follow when discharged. The instructions describe how you can safely care for your wound or illness, directions for prescribed medications and recommendations for follow-up medical care. It is important to fully understand all instructions. If you have a question, let us know while you’re here. Be sure to follow up with your primary care physician as well.

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