There is no good time for a medical emergency. But if you suddenly become ill or are injured, the emergency department at St. Francis Hospital & Health Services is always available to take care of you and your family members. For the month of October, that meant serving 900 patients – a new record for the number of visits in one month. The prior record was 845 patients seen in February 2008.
Emergency departments provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Doctors, nurses and other professionals with emergency training and skills are always on hand to treat patients.
"When your doctor's office is closed, the emergency department is open no matter what," says Pat Giffin, ED Nurse Manager. "We have selected specialized physicians to cover our ED. These physicians are dedicated to providing exceptional care to all the patients coming to our ED. They are fully credentialed by our medical staff and board of directors and they work in our ED on a regularly scheduled basis."
If you have a life-threatening event — such as a heart attack or stroke — calling 911 to be taken to the emergency department is obviously the thing to do. But for less serious injuries or illnesses, you may wonder if a trip to the emergency department is in order.
"If you're not sure but you think something is wrong that shouldn’t wait until you can see your doctor, it’s better to err on the side of caution and get some help promptly," Giffin says.
WHAT TO EXPECT
When you first arrive at the hospital, a nurse will see you to help determine how quickly you need care. This process is called triage. The nurse may check your vital signs, such as temperature, heart rate and blood pressure during this triage process.
Depending on your condition, you may have to wait to receive care. However, during the record-setting month of October 2009, the average wait time at St. Francis ED from arrival to seeing the physician was 14 minutes. According to Press Ganey's Emergency Department Pulse Report 2009, the national average for wait time in an emergency department is over four hours.
"If the emergency department is busy, the staff has to prioritize cases and attend to the most serious ones first," Giffin says. "If your medical need is immediate, the ED staff and doctor will attend to you right away. If your condition is considered less serious than others in the ED at that time, you may have to wait. We work hard to keep wait times as brief as possible."
Once the doctor has seen you, he or she may request that you be admitted to the hospital. If your condition does not require admission to the hospital, the doctor and ED staff will discuss your treatment plan with you before you go home. You may receive prescriptions for medicines, instructions about activities and foods to avoid and when follow-up with your regular doctor.
Keep in mind that emergency care is not a substitute for having your own doctor. "Everyone should have a primary care provider," Giffin says.
Emergency doctors are trained to help patients from birth to 100+ and whether they are injured or have become sick suddenly.
These specialists may go from stitching up a head wound, to attending to a broken leg, to treating a heart attack — all in a short period of time.
Emergency staff must be quick-thinking and able to keep up with new medical technology and treatments. Doctors and nurses who work in the ED regularly take part in continuing education to update their skills.
"You can count on the emergency department staff to provide high-quality care in your greatest hour of need," Giffin says.