Five Steps of Emergency Care

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

Step 1 – Rapid Medical Evaluation

When you arrive at the ER on your own and not in an ambulance, you will first go through a triage process with a licensed registered nurse (RN) and then a medical screening examination by a licensed medical provider to help determine your medical condition and the level of care you need. Patients with the most severe emergencies receive immediate treatment. That is why some patients may receive medical care before you, even if they arrived at the ER after you. This process helps ensure that all patients get the care they need as quickly and efficiently as possible, based on the severity of their injury or illness.

We have a rapid treatment area in the Emergency Department called the “ER Fast Track” for patients who are determined to have less severe injuries after being triaged. This process is designated to help speed up the process of being seen when patients arrive in the ER.

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. Patient Access Specialists can conduct bedside registration for patients who have been taken directly to a treatment room.

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. 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 – Re-evaluation

Your condition will be re-evaluated 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 re-evaluation, 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.