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The Five Steps of Emergency Care : What to Expect

Rushing to the hospital’s emergency room isn’t something people plan for but it should definitely be prepared for. While you definitely do not want to find yourself in emergency care, knowing exactly how the system works should put you in a better position while waiting.


Typically, emergency care covers a total of five steps. There’s triage, registration, treatment, reevaluation, and then discharge. Here’s how each step proceeds:


  1. Triage

The process starts with the triage where the health professionals determine the severity of your condition. The emergency department operates on a “who needs it more” basis so if they determine that your issue is not life-threatening, you might have to wait longer. This is actually one of those times when being last in line is a good thing.

A nurse or technician will be asking for your medical history and figure out your exact problem. They will examine you for symptoms and then determine your priority level based on what they find out. They typically characterize patients into five levels. There’s Level 5 for Non-Urgent, Level 4 for Semi-Urgent, Level 3 for Urgent, Level 2 for Emergency, and Level 1 for Immediate Intervention.

If a hospital isn’t particularly busy or if it’s well staffed, you might have a nurse assist you with diagnostic testing. This will help shorten the waiting period and give your attending physician reliable information to make their diagnosis. Note that while waiting, your condition may change. If it worsens at any time, make sure to inform a nurse immediately!


  1. Registration

The registration process may occur at the same time as triage. The nurse or technician may hand you several sheets of paper to fill out while waiting for diagnostic testing. Registration is an important step to help professionals understand your situation better. If you have existing medical records in the hospital, this should make it easier for them to find it and reconcile the data with your current situation.

The registration process is also the way that the hospital will get your consent for any treatment. Indicate your insurance, your emergency contacts, and so on. Be glad if you’re able to fill in a registration – this means that your situation isn’t as dire! Patients who are categorized as Level 1 are typically searched for identification so hospitals can find out more about their medical history.

Be honest with the registration process especially if you’re on any form of medication. Doctors and nurses are legally prohibited from telling the police if you’re taking illegal drugs. However, keeping this information from them can definitely affect proper treatment.

During the lull between registration and triage, you can try contacting a friend or a family member in the hospital. Emergency Departments usually allow at least one companion for patients.


  1. Treatment

Next, you have the treatment stage. After diagnostic testing, a doctor will meet with you for further examination and a diagnosis. This is also the time when they will decide if you need to be admitted or not.

Depending on your condition, treatment can include attachment of an intravenous line, getting you on antibiotics, stitching you up, or even scheduling you for surgery. These remedies may be given as preventive measures against worsening symptoms.

Blood or urine samples may also be necessary as they figure out the best way to treat your problem. These test results typically take a long time, depending on the queue in the laboratory. Be prepared to wait for one or two hours as the doctors wait for your test results.


  1. Re-evaluation

Once the tests come in, health professionals with re-evaluate your situation and find out if you’re taking the right medication. For example, they may swap one medication for another, take it out, or add more, depending on the results of the test.

It’s also possible for them to contact your personal physician to get in-depth information about your medical history. Inform your doctor if there’s any change in your status such as sudden discomfort or pain. Expect a more thorough evaluation at this point as the physician narrows down on your health issue.

At this stage, the doctors will decide on whether you need to be confined for a longer period or if you can be discharged. If you need to be admitted, you’ll be asked to contact a friend to help – if you don’t have one with you already.


  1. Discharge

Finally, the doctors will decide if you’re healthy enough for discharge. Your discharge orders may come after a few hours or after a few days if you’re admitted. In all cases however, patients are given instructions on how to proceed after their emergency care visit.

Prescriptions, return visits, and instructions on how to care for yourself are all written down to make sure that you don’t forget them. The goal is to make sure that you remain healthy – long after you’ve left the emergency department. Unlike other services – hospital workers don’t like seeing repeat customers!

Before leaving, make sure to ask for a contact number just in case you have any questions about your treatment. It’s also normal to get a call from the hospital asking you for feedback about your stay. Any comment you give will be used to help improve future services.

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