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What to Expect

Coming to an emergency room can be an anxious and confusing time. Here's a quick rundown of what you can expect during your visit:

Three important steps

  • Triage: Upon arrival, the patient is seen by a triage nurse who prioritizes care needs based on symptoms being experienced and how sick or injured the patient is.
  • Registration: A registration clerk takes information about the patient (age, contact information, etc.), insurance coverage, and their current physicians.
  • Medical Care: A specially trained emergency physician in on duty at all times to care for patients. Additionally, patients will be cared for by on-duty nurses and other medical personnel, such as lab and radiology staff, as needed.

Prioritizing patient care

  • If you notice that other people are being seen before you, it's because we need to treat the sickest patients first.
  • If you think you've been overlooked, please ask someone for help. We will update you as often as possible.
  • If you think your condition is worsening and you need to be seen right away, ask to be checked by a nurse.

Once you're admitted

Once admitted, patients are brought back to a room in the treatment area. A nurse collects medical information and answers any questions. The physician on shift stops in and conducts an examination. Blood and x-ray tests might also be performed. The physician will determine a treatment plan.


  • After the evaluation, our emergency room physicians always discuss treatment plans with the patient (if the patient is alert). We also forward all information to the patient's primary care physician.
  • For some common illnesses, we order "lab work" before the patient sees a physician. This helps the physician make medical decisions and start needed treatment more quickly.
  • If a patient requires a short period of observation and treatment, he or she may be moved to an observation bed. This can last several hours, with treatment provided by physicians and nurses.
  • If a patient has to be admitted to the hospital, the physician discusses the details with the patient and family. The patient's primary care physician is notified. If the patient doesn't have a doctor, or the doctor isn't affiliated with Humboldt General Hospital, then one of HGH's hospitalist physicians will be assigned as the primary-care physician for the duration of the patient's hospital stay.

Anything else?

Here are some other things to think about concerning a stay in the emergency room:

  • Pain: Treating pain is important to both patients and our staff. If you feel your pain is not being adequately treated, please let your physician or nurses know.
  • Valuables: We ask that any valuables be given to a friend or family member for safe-keeping. If no one is available to watch out for valuables, our staff will arrange for secure storage.
  • Visitors: In-room visitors are limited to one per patient (two if the patient is a child). We encourage visitors to remain with the patient unless evaluations or procedures are being performed. Unauthorized visitors may not enter treatment areas and must remain in the waiting area.
  • Food: Patients shouldn't expect to eat or drink anything while in the emergency room because it may interfere with care. For visitors, a cafeteria is located near the Emergency Department. Vending machines are also located near the entrance to the cafeteria.
  • Medical students: By the summer of 2013, we will become a medical residency hospital. Residents and medical students will be working with us and may be on hand to observe, or participate in, our staff's activities.


If a patient is allowed to go home after treatment, written discharge instructions will be provided. Follow-up recommendations from a member of our staff or a specialist will be noted on the form. Once home, if symptoms worsen or change, the patient should contact their primary care physician-or return to the Emergency Department.