According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in five Americans go to the Emergency Room (ER) once a year. Of the 131 million ER visits, about two-thirds of them are by adults between the ages of 18 and 64. If you have never had to go to the ER, you should consider yourself fortunate. If you ever do have to go, it helps to know what happens once you get there.
Here are three things to expect during a trip to the ER.
1. Wait Times
Whether you have had an accident or you're really sick, just because you consider it an emergent situation, doesn't mean you'll be seen right away. How fast you are seen often depends on the state in which you reside. For example, in Massachusetts, the average wait time is 37 minutes, while in Kansas it's only 17 minutes. Some of the reasons for longer wait times at the ER include:
- Patients are triaged with the most critical cases getting admitted more quickly
- Certain medical specialists might not be readily available
- It takes time to diagnose each patient
Since staff is usually limited on weekends and at night, you can also expect a longer wait if you go the ER during these times.
2. Vital Signs
Unless your situation is critical, you probably won't see an ER doctor right away. After you are checked in and admitted to the ER, you will see a nurse who will take your vitals and assess your condition. Some of the vitals they will check include:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Body temperature
- Oxygen saturation levels
The nurse will also ask you if you are in any pain, the severity of the pain, and the type of pain you are having. Once you have seen the nurse, you will be taken to a private room with a bed or a bed that is surrounded by a curtain. You will then wait to see the doctor.
After the doctor looks over your information, they may request labs in order to check your metabolic panel and whether you have anemia or an infection. If necessary, they may also hook you up to an IV pump in order to administer any necessary fluids or medications. The doctor will also request other types of diagnostic testing, such as X-rays, CT scan, or ultrasound to help diagnose your condition.
On average, treatment times at the ER are 90 minutes. This will be longer, depending on the wait times for certain tests. If deemed necessary, the ER doctor will admit you to the hospital for further treatment.