A Look Inside the Emergency Department
There are over 136 million visits to emergency departments (ED) in America each year. And, the one thing these visits have in common is that they are part of a wide range of conditions that present on a daily basis. Severe abdominal pain, sports injuries, heart attacks, chest pain, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, food poisoning, chronic pain, complications from diseases, flu, overdoses, allergic reactions, respiratory difficulties, car accidents, lacerations, and broken bones are some of the typical conditions that present to our emergency department. Additionally, because we are a Level II trauma center, we are always at the ready in the unfortunate case of an incoming trauma.
While statistically our ED wait times are well below the national average, it is important to note that wait times are highly dependent on what is happening behind the scenes. Let’s pull back the curtain and take a deeper look inside the ED. When a patient arrives, their first stop is triage – a word we use to prioritize each patient’s condition. Triage nurses at the front desk determine if the situation is immediately life-threatening; urgent, but not life threatening; and less urgent. We recognize that every condition is important, but to save lives, we must prioritize based on emergent, urgent and traumatic situations.
Following initial triage, you are checked-in, your vitals are taken and insurance information is collected. Up until you are placed in a room, our front triage nurses continuously monitor patients and will adjust if a patient’s condition changes. Once in a room, our emergency-department nurses gather more detailed information; thereafter, an emergency-medicine physician obtains more specific information and may formulate a differential diagnosis. Tests may be ordered to help confirm or rule out a diagnosis. It is at this moment a patient is ‘seeing’ multiple doctors at once. Examples may include a radiologist, a general surgeon, neurologist, a gastroenterologist or other specialty physician who is part of the emergency medical team.
The vast array of people caring for patients in an emergency department can be confusing and often people do not know why they are just in a room waiting. Many specialist are not visitors in your emergency room, but rather behind the scene reading diagnostic reports and consulting with the emergency medicine team. It can take some time to rule out certain conditions and make a diagnosis.
If you are in a room and stable, we may get another patient who presents with a life-threatening condition while you are in our care. Unlike an urgent care or a wellness visit, it is not a first come first serve situation; we must continuously monitor, adjust and make decision about every patient in our care.
As we put the all the medical pieces together concerning your condition, you may be admitted, discharged, given follow-up instructions to see a primary care physician or transferred to another medical facility. Our goal is to treat emergent, urgent and traumatic conditions; we do not prescribe narcotics for chronic conditions.
Portneuf Medical Center’s Emergency Department is ready and proud to serve all of Southeastern Idaho. We diagnose and treat a wide range of medical ailments from illnesses and minor injuries to major medical emergencies. Our highly trained staffed and team of board-certified physicians are ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to handle your minor and major medical needs.