What to Expect During an ER Visit

Medical provider showing a young girl how she'll get a bandage by demonstrating on a bear while dad in a wheel chair looks onFrom triage to discharge, Brookings Health's emergency medical team follows specific procedures to help patients receive the emergency care they need as quickly as possible.

The following steps help our team efficiently and effectively care for those with sudden illnesses or injuries. Explore the tabs to learn more about what you can expect when receiving care from Brookings Health System's emergency room.

The triage process determines the severity of a patient’s condition. We treat individuals with the most severe conditions immediately. When a patient enters our emergency department, the receptionist will ask the reason for the visit. If it is a critical, life-threatening emergency, such as chest pains, a nurse will be called immediately to room the patient and start assessment and care. For all other less critical conditions, the receptionist will take the patient’s name and date of birth before calling a nurse. There may be a short wait before a nurse escorts a patient and their support person to their room.

Once inside a room, the nurse will begin taking a patient’s vital signs, such as temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse will also ask questions about how the patient is feeling, symptoms and medical history. They may also give medications or start an IV immediately. After the assessment, the nurse will speak with the emergency medicine provider. The physician or mid-level provider will then enter the patient’s room and perform their own initial assessment and ask more questions. The provider will also discuss with the patient and their support person any lab work, radiology exams or other tests the provider wants to order to help assess the patient’s condition.

In between the initial assessments and testing, the health unit coordinator will arrive to fully register the patient. They will gather information such as the patient’s contact information, insurance and consent for treatment. Bedside registration allows the emergency team to focus on the patient’s condition and comfort first. It also speeds up the treatment process.

Treatment for each patient depends on their medical history, symptoms and test results. Once the physician or mid-level provider receives test results back, they will discuss the results with the patient and their support person and talk about next steps. Those steps could include ordering more tests if the results are not conclusive, consulting with a specialist, starting medications, or stabilizing a broken bone. If warranted, the provider will also discuss admission to the hospital or transfer to a larger, tertiary care facility.

For patients who are not admitted to the hospital’s inpatient care unit or transferred to a larger, tertiary facility, they will be discharged to home. The care team will provide written instructions for home care. They will also teach the patient and their support person how to give proper treatment, what signs or symptoms to look for, and answer any questions to make sure the patient is comfortable with the plan of care. In addition, the team will help the patient setup appropriate follow-up care with the patient’s primary care provider or a specialist.