Emergency Medicine

More than 50,000 patients annually rely on the professional, quality emergency care at Mount Nittany Medical Center.
A Mount Nittany team member studies patient information in the emergency department.

Central Pennsylvanians know that the Medical Center's full-time Emergency Department (ED) has caring and exceptionally well-trained staff to provide the emergency care they need.

In addition to our ED staff of physicians, nurses and technicians, Mount Nittany Medical Center's Emergency Medical Services Department is a 24-hour paramedic service that responds to emergencies like cardiac (heart) and respiratory (breathing) problems, strokes, diabetes complications and trauma-related incidents.

To find an ED physician, please click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know that a trip to the ED can be an anxious time, but we hope that these frequently asked questions will help ease some of your concerns before you come to the ED.

In an emergency, always call 911. If you have general questions about Mount Nittany Medical Center's ED, you can reach us at 814.234.6110.

New emergency department facility

On April 23, 2013, Mount Nittany Medical Center opened a new and renovated emergency department facility. Learn more about the new facility.

What is emergency medicine?

Emergency medicine, provided in the Medical Center's ED, is specialized care for patients that face an immediate, life-threatening problem with their airway, circulation or breathing. Most emergencies require immediate intervention to prevent worsening of the condition.

How do I know if I should come to the ED? How quickly will I be seen?

While some situations are clear emergencies—like a heart attack or serious accident—other conditions can leave patients feeling unsure if they need a visit to the ED, need to call 911 or if they need an ambulance.

In general, it's best to err on the side of caution. Experienced ED staff can best categorize your level of emergency once you get to the ED, which affects how quickly you will be seen. The following is a simple guide to how ED staff handles patients as well as some advice for how to handle situations before you get to the ED.

ED patients are ranked as one of five levels of emergency, with level five being the most serious.

  • Level Five: The most serious level of emergency, this level can include things like cardiac arrest, heart attacks, strokes and major trauma. Patients suffering from a level five emergency need to be seen by a physician within minutes to minimize worsening of their condition. Patients should call 911 and come to the ED via an ambulance.
  • Level Four: This level of emergency also requires urgent care, usually within 20 to 30 minutes, and can include conditions like chest pain and asthma. Patients experiencing these kinds of emergencies should call 911 and come to the ED via an ambulance.
  • Level Three: Patients with level three emergencies have conditions like abdominal pain, vomiting, pneumonia and broken bones. These patients most often come to the ED by a private vehicle.
  • Level Two: Level two emergency patients can wait to receive care for several hours. These conditions often include things like sprains, strains and most lacerations. These patients are often seen by a basic care physician's assistant.
  • Level One: Patients with level one emergencies, like suture removals and wound rechecks, are usually seen by a physician's assistant.

Why should I come by ambulance? Isn’t it faster to drive myself?

An ambulance provides specially trained medical professionals that can immediately provide life-saving care to patients in an emergency. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) can intervene to not only make the patient's condition improve faster but also decrease the threat to life and contact ED physicians prior to arriving at the Medical Center. This is especially important to consider when you live in a rural area further from the hospital.

Can I come to the ED any time?

The ED is open 24 hours a day, every day. However, please know that the ED can be busier during the holidays and when Penn State University has home football games, but this should not discourage you from seeking care when needed.

What happens once I get to the ED?

Here is a basic breakdown of what will happen when you arrive at the ED. If you arrive by ambulance, you may skip the first two steps.

1. A greeter at the registration desk will take your name, date of birth and the reason you're coming to the ED.
2. You will be seen by a triage nurse. Lab draws and X-rays may be ordered, if appropriate. Labs will be returned in about an hour.
3. You will be taken to a room and seen by a nurse. You may be given a gown to change into, if appropriate.
4. A physician or physician's assistant will see you and determine a treatment plan, which will be implemented by nurses and technicians. You will be monitored to see how you are responding to the treatment.
5. A physician will reevaluate your status and any diagnostic results, like lab work. He or she will discuss whether you should be admitted or if you can go home.
6. If you are admitted, you will meet with a hospitalist, who will monitor your progress. You will also be moved to a hospital room.

Do I need to bring anything with me to the ED?

The most important things to know when you visit the ED are any current medications you are taking and any allergies you have. You should also bring your health insurance card and identification.

Can my family/friends come with me?

Yes, though we do try to limit visitors for health and safety reasons. Generally, one person can accompany you to the treatment area or that person can wait in the waiting area. If several people accompany you, only one can be with you in the treatment area while the others wait in the waiting area.

We discourage bringing babies and small children to the ED because they are more susceptible to infection.

How are ED staff members specially trained to handle emergencies?

All Mount Nittany Health ED staff are specially trained to provide emergency care.

  • ED physicians have been certified by or are board eligible with the American College of Emergency Physicians. They have advanced-level training in cardiac and trauma life support.
  • ED nurses are certified in advanced cardiac life support, basic life support and advanced pediatric life support. Nurses new to the ED receive ED-specific education provided by the Emergency Nurse Association. Our nurses are also trained as sexual assault examiners. All nurses take continuing education classes to maintain their licenses.
  • ED technicians are EMTs provided with additional training on splinting, intravenous (IV) access and other common ED procedures. They provide assistance to nursing teams with these procedures.
  • The Medical Center's paramedics are certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and maintain their certifications through monthly continuing education. Paramedics are trained to provide 12-lead and 4-lead EKG cardiac monitoring and defibrillation, IV canulation and drug administration, and advanced/surgical airway maintenance. More recently, the paramedics have been specially trained to transport "high-risk" pregnancies to tertiary care facilities. The Medical Center is a member of the Centre County Ambulance Association.

Why was I referred to a primary care provider?

The ED staff is often able to provide a definitive diagnosis for our patients, but sometimes we will refer you to a primary care doctor for additional treatment and testing to determine the exact cause of a problem. We will make sure that you are stable and as comfortable as possible, but sometimes your best treatment option is to see your regular doctor.

Wellness Library

Health Break Article

Be Prepared For An Emergency Department Visit

By Kathy Dittmann, RN

It is reassuring to know that when someone has a medical emergency the emergency department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Patients may seek care for life threatening issues involving their heart or breathing, or for a variety of conditions and injuries that range from urgent to a minor aliment. Regardless of why a patient comes to the emergency department every patient is anxious, perceives that they have an emergency and would like to be seen immediately by a physician. When someone goes to a store or restaurant, they expect to be served in the order in which they arrive, however, in the emergency department care is not delivered on a first come, first served basis. Patients are greeted at the front desk an...

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