What to Expect When You Visit the ER

Although an emergency room visit is usually unplanned, knowing what to expect can help alleviate stress you may be feeling. Here are some common questions and answers to help you prepare for your visit to the ER.

Emergency Department FAQ

When I need to visit the emergency room, do I need to bring anything with me?

If you are not arriving by ambulance and you have a moment to gather your things before heading to the emergency room, you may want to check to ensure you have proper identification and your insurance card. Additional information you may need includes:

  • Your name and date of birth
  • Your social security number
  • The name of your primary care provider
  • The reason for your visit
  • A list of any medications you’re currently taking

What will happen when I arrive?

Although every patient who arrives at the emergency room is important and deserves to be seen, patients with the most severe conditions in the ER are seen first. Those with less serious illnesses or injuries may have to wait a little longer before they are seen. To ensure you get the appropriate treatment, you will be assessed by a highly trained medical professional as quickly as possible after you arrive. You or a family member will also need to check in at the registration desk to provide additional information that will help enable the medical team to serve you in a timely manner.

Will I get to see a doctor?

Once the medical team is ready for you, they will take you to an exam room. There, you may be asked to replace your clothing with a hospital gown. Depending on the reason for your visit, you may also be attached to a device that allows the nurses to keep track of your vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure. In most cases, your nurse will ask you about your injury or illness and take notes for the doctor. Once the doctor is available, you will get an opportunity to speak with them as well. During this time, you can explain how you are feeling, provide a brief medical history that may help the doctor make a more informed decision, and ask any questions you may have.

Will I need any medical tests?

Whether you need additional testing depends on the reason for your visit and what the doctor finds during the physical examination. If the doctor suspects a broken bone or some other internal problem that can’t be seen without special imaging, they may order some X-rays, a CT scan, or other tests. For other issues, like a suspected illness, blood work may be ordered to rule out or diagnose various medical conditions. As a patient, it’s important to understand what tests are being performed so you can prepare for the next steps.

What treatment will I receive?

Treatment can vary greatly based on the individual needs of each patient. Sometimes, treatment is simple and can take place right there in the emergency room. On the other hand, more complex medical conditions often require more in-depth treatment options. In some cases, patients are admitted to the hospital for additional testing and observation.

If your condition is not immediately life-threatening, you may be released from the emergency room with instructions to see another type of doctor or specialist in a specific field. All of this will be discussed with you once the doctor is ready and able to talk to you about your condition and any test results obtained during your visit. This is another great opportunity for you to ask questions or voice any concerns you may have.

What happens when I’m discharged?

If the doctor decides that you’re healthy enough to be discharged, you’ll want to review your discharge instructions and ask any additional questions you may have before you leave. You may also be asked to provide your medical insurance information and pay any amount due before leaving the hospital. Anytime you visit the emergency room for any reason, it’s important to stay aware of how you feel after you leave, and don’t hesitate to come back should your condition worsen.