What to Expect in the Emergency Room (ER)

What to Expect in the Emergency Room (ER)

You or a loved one may have had an accident or serious illness. If so, you are likely to be worried and afraid. Knowing more about the emergency room (also called the emergency department) can help you feel less anxious.

Woman holding side in pain, walking into emergency department with healthcare provider.
A triage nurse will help assess the severity of your problem.
What Is the Emergency Room (ER)?

The ER is a department in a hospital or medical center. It's meant for people who cannot wait to get care. Unlike a doctor's office, you don't need an appointment. But that means many people may need treatment at the same time. In that case, the most urgent problems are treated first.

When You Arrive at the ER

You'll talk to a nurse trained in emergency care (triage nurse) as soon as you arrive. He or she will ask about your problem. Your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure will also be checked. You'll see a doctor right away if your injury or illness is severe. Otherwise, you may be asked to wait while more seriously ill people are treated first.

Your Emergency Care

In the ER, a doctor or team of doctors and nurses will care for you. All have special training in emergency medicine. You may have x-rays, blood work, or other tests. You will need to wait for the results of any tests you have. You also may wait to see a doctor who specializes in treating your problem. In the meantime, you will be made as comfortable as possible.

Going Home

You may be admitted to the hospital if you are very ill or need further evaluation. But you often can be treated right in the ER. Before a friend or family member takes you home, you'll be given written instructions about how to care for yourself and prescriptions for any medications you need. Be sure to ask your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.