How to determine whether a medical problem is an emergency
The Emergency Department (ED) uses a system of triage that enables us to treat the most critically ill or seriously injured patients first. Emergency nurses and physicians review and revise triage guidelines annually to ensure all emergencies are addressed appropriately. The ED staff is dedicated to providing expert care in emergency situations and is there to provide care to anyone regardless of the ability to pay for services.
Whether a patient is taken to the ED in a private vehicle or transported by ambulance, he or she can be assured that his or her healthcare needs will be addressed promptly and appropriately.
To minimize wait times and to ensure proper treatment, use the following guidelines when making a decision to seek emergency or urgent care.
An emergency is any sudden or serious condition that requires medical attention within a minute to several hours.
- A sudden loss of breath
- Severe bleeding
- Chest pain
- Deep cuts
- Broken bones
- Poisoning from chemicals or drugs or an overdose
If a condition is life-threatening, call 911 for emergency transport.
An urgent care need is any condition that requires care within several hours and is not life-threatening. Patients with the most severe symptoms will be seen first.
- Persistent high fever
- Severe ear infection
- Severe sore throat
- Insect bite or sudden rash
Often a patient who is waiting to see a healthcare professional in an urgent-care situation may grow impatient. Please remember that those with more serious injuries or illnesses are being treated first. If a patient feels that his or her condition is worsening, alert the triage nurse so he or she can reevaluate the status of the patient.
Be proactive and reduce emergency care visits by following these simple steps:
- Seek care from a primary care physician before an illness or injury worsens.
- Get a flu shot, especially if the patient is elderly or has chronic health problems such as heart disease, emphysema or asthma.
- Visit a free-standing urgent care center for conditions that are not true emergencies.
- If a bad cough or a fever of 101 degrees is the symptom, do not go to work and risk infecting others.
- Wash your hands frequently to avoid the spread of germs.
- If possible, talk to your primary care physician before going to the ED. He or she may be able to give you advice over the phone, preventing a trip to the hospital.
If emergency medical care is needed, bring any medications you are taking with you. Also, have medical and insurance information up-to-date and on-hand.