Trips to the emergency room happen on an infrequent basis for most people.  But when you do need to visit, time is critical, and you'll likely want to be familiar with what you can expect when you arrive.  Kim Lowry, RN, Emergency Room Nurse Manager at Martha Jefferson Hospital, answers some frequently asked questions about how an emergency department operates.  

Q: What happens when you visit an emergency room?  What can patients expect?

A: Traditionally when you present to an emergency department, if you can walk in the front door, you are usually evaluated by a non-clinical person who takes your name, your date of birth and puts you on a list and then you take a seat and wait for the triage nurse to call you back.  When called, you're evaluated and assessed by that nurse, assigned a priority depending on what your chief complaints are and then you may go back out to the waiting room to wait again if there's not a bed available. 

At Martha Jefferson, we've altered that process to provide our patients with better care.  When you present to our Emergency Department, if we have a bed available for you, we will take you directly back to that bed.  We do your triage assessment at the bedside, we also do your patient registration at the bedside, and this allows the physician to actually see you much quicker than what you would see in a traditional setting. 

Q: Is there still an ordering process based on acuity level when triage is done at the bedside?  

A: Yes, there is still a priority given to those patients, and of course the sickest patients are seen first. 

Q:  Does the new process change anything the nurses and doctors do?  

A: No, it actually just makes the whole process work much smoother.  You have the privacy to be able to do the assessment of your patient and you can do it all at once instead of having to break it into multiple pieces, so it actually works very well. 

Q:  What happens to the triage space at Martha Jefferson when patients go straight to a bed?  

A: If we have a room available and we take a patient directly back to a bed then the triage area actually stays unused, but we also don't staff it with a presence.  When we do have a need for the space, it's available and provides a setting to do things such as initiate treatment, do your EKG's, start IV lines and medicate. 

Q: If you come in on an ambulance does the same triage process take place?

A:  The same process does take place if you come in by ambulance.  Hopefully we have a bed available and can take you directly back, however it is possible you may have to have a seat in the waiting room or be placed in a hall bed until a room becomes available to you.  

Q:  What one thing should people remember about the Emergency Departments at Martha Jefferson?   

A:  If you think you need to visit the emergency department, don't hesitate.  We are more than happy to take care of you and at Martha Jefferson we can meet your needs by delivering high quality patient outcomes and sharing our caring tradition.