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ED: What to Expect

1. Triage Nurse


When you arrive at the Emergency Department, the triage nurse will assess your health condition based on your symptoms and/or the circumstances that brought you to the Emergency Department (ED).

The triage nurse will ask you questions about your symptoms, measure your pulse, blood pressure, temperature and breathing, and ask about any allergies you may have or any medications you are taking. This information will be shared with the health-care team in charge of your care.


The triage nurse will then categorize your condition using the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale tool to determine the seriousness of your illness or injury. In the ED, the most critical patients are cared for first.


IMPORTANT - Please bring: your Medicare card; an up-to-date list of your medication(s), including how much, how often and why you are taking each one, as well as any allergies; a family member or friend who can provide you with support and assist you if necessary. 


Please do not leave without being seen by a physician or nurse practitioner. Should you decide to leave without being treated, please let the triage nurse know.

2. Registration Area


After being assessed by the triage nurse, you will be sent to the registration desk to provide your Medicare number, address, and other contact information. Using this information, your ED chart is made. Your chart is a permanent record of the tests and treatments the doctors and nurses perform while you are in the ED.


Once you have registered, you will be directed to the waiting room, non-acute care, or acute care areas.

3. Main Waiting Room


For less urgent illnesses or injuries, you will be asked to sit in the main waiting room to wait to see a doctor or nurse practitioner. Some examples of these illnesses or injuries include (but are not limited to) a sore throat, twisted ankle, muscle strain, cough or the flu. Once in the main waiting room, you should listen for your name to be called to see the doctor or nurse practitioner.


Once you have been assessed by a doctor or nurse practitioner, you may be asked to return to the main waiting room to await test results (such as blood work or X-rays) so we can continue to assess other patients, reducing overall wait times.


While in the main waiting room, the triage nurse will provide support, offering additional comfort measures such as ice packs or blankets, and will reassess your condition. You should return to the triage nurse if there is any change in your condition or for any questions you may have.


If you need to leave the waiting area for any reason, please advise the triage nurse.

4. Non-Acute Care 


There are several exam rooms in non-acute care in which you may be seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner. Once you are placed in an exam room, a member of the health-care team will do a more thorough assessment of your condition.


After examination by the doctor or nurse practitioner, you may undergo testing, such as blood work or have an intravenous started. You may be given medication by a non-acute nurse that the doctor or nurse practitioner has ordered. It is also possible that you will be given directions to the X-ray department to have an X-ray taken. After your testing is done, depending on your illness or injury, you may be asked to return to the waiting room to await test results. This will allow another patient to be seen and assessed by the health-care team.

5. Acute Care  



You may be placed in the acute care area for severe abdominal pain, recent but not ongoing chest pain, or a recent but not ongoing seizure.


Your acute care nurse will ask you further questions and give you an opportunity to ask questions or provide any additional information that you would like to share about your illness or condition. If you have had recent chest pain, or any other symptoms that may relate to your heart, the nurse may place you on a heart monitor. You may also be placed on oxygen if you are short of breath. After the nurse has completed their assessment, the doctor will come to see you.  


The doctor may order tests that will help him or her determine the cause of your discomfort or concern. They may order intravenous fluids and/or pain medications for you. Your acute care nurse will carry out these orders and may draw blood work, perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) or send you to the X-ray department for X-rays.


When all of your test results are in, the doctor will explain the results to you. Results from the lab can take a while and the waiting can be difficult, but your acute care nurse will be there to assist you and make you as comfortable as possible during the wait. You should also feel free to ask any questions you might have about the tests you are having, the medications you are being given or any other concerns you may have.


Meals will be provided by the hospital food service at scheduled meal times for patients remaining in the department, unless your doctor has asked that you not eat. This may happen if your tests are not complete or should you require further treatment, such as an operation or special procedure. If you are able to eat, make sure that your nurse knows of any allergies or special meal considerations you may have.


After all testing is complete and the doctor has reviewed the results with you, you may be sent for additional testing, admitted to the hospital or discharged home. If you are discharged, you will be given instructions on any follow-up appointments you may need to make and keep, and/or be given a prescription for medications that you will need to take at home.

6. Trauma / Resuscitation Area  


If your condition is serious or critical, you will be taken to the trauma area. The trauma/resuscitation area of the ED is where the sickest patients are seen by a doctor. You may be having a heart attack, stroke, or experiencing severe bleeding as the result of an accident. 


In the trauma area, you will be cared for by doctors and trauma nurses who will also ask you more about your condition. Medical specialists may also be consulted to see you in the trauma room.


The trauma nurse will connect you to a heart monitor so that your vital signs can be continuously monitored, including your heart rate and oxygen saturation. There are a lot of alarms on the heart monitor that are very sensitive and may make a loud noise. If you hear an alarm, it does not mean that you are in danger. Often these alarms sound with movement alone. The staff in the trauma room can explain these alarms and reassure you.


During your stay in the trauma area, you may have an X-ray with a portable X-ray machine, have an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the electrical activity of your heart through wires attached to stickers on your chest, or be sent for further testing (such as a CT scan) in the Medical Imaging Department.

7. Family Room


The family room is a small area near the trauma area, which is designed for families of our most critically injured patients to be together and wait while their loved one is being cared for.


Periodically, a doctor or a nurse will come to update your family on your condition and allow your family members to visit you. We also offer support from spiritual and religious care or social workers if you or your family are interested in speaking with them.

Important Privacy Information:

When visiting the ED, you should be prepared to be asked who you are visiting. As we work under strict privacy legislation, it is always up to the patient as to how much information we share and with whom. We never give out information over the phone for confidentiality reasons. The taking of pictures or recording of video is not permitted, for both privacy and security reasons.

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