Five Steps of Emergency Care

Sudden illness or injury can occur without warning, and while no one typically plans a trip to the ER, everyone should know what to expect after they arrive.

Step 1 – Triage

Any emergency department (ED) can become crowded in an instant. So, who is treated first?

Unless you arrive with a life-threatening injury or illness, you will be assessed by a triage nurse who will examine your condition, obtain your vital signs and prioritize your care. Patients with the most severe emergencies receive immediate treatment. That is why some patients may receive medical care before you, even if they arrived at the ER after you. This process helps ensure that all patients get the care they need as quickly and efficiently as possible, based on the severity of their injury or illness.

There is always a triage nurse on duty. Triage nurses at Aiken Regional go through a special training course called Emergency Severity Index (ESI) 5-level Triage Course, which is endorsed by the Emergency Nurses Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Step 2 – Registration

The registration process is important for two reasons: it lets the ED staff gather information for your patient record and obtain your consent for treatment. Both are necessary for ordering diagnostic tests to enable the physician to determine your best treatment option. Patient Access Specialists can conduct bedside registration for patients who have been taken directly to a treatment room.

Step 3 – Treatment

Every patient receives treatment from an emergency medicine physician or mid-level practitioner. Depending on your condition, a registered nurse may start an intravenous (IV) line. The IV line will allow the nursing staff to quickly administer medications or fluids that may be ordered by a physician. A nurse or technician may also take blood or urine samples, or they may send you for an X-ray or other imaging test before a physician sees you.

Physicians may also order blood tests on an urgent basis. Test results help physicians assess your condition. The results could be available within one to two hours, while you are in the ED. However, some test results may require a longer wait. During your treatment, the staff in the ED will help make sure you are comfortable and informed.

Step 4 – Reevaluation

Your condition will be reevaluated after test results come back because the results may give the physician additional insight into the type of treatment you need. How you feel can be just as important as your test results, so be sure to let physicians or nurses know about any pain or discomfort you may feel.The staff may also contact your primary care physician for additional information. If you do not have a primary care physician, we may refer you to an on-call physician. After the reevaluation, the attending physician determines whether you should be admitted to the hospital or treated and sent home.

Step 5 – Discharge

Part of our job is to keep you healthy long after you’ve left the ED. All patients receive written home-care instructions to follow when discharged. The instructions describe how you can safely care for your wound or illness, directions for prescribed medications and recommendations for follow-up medical care. It is important to fully understand all instructions. If you have a question, let us know while you’re here. Be sure to follow up with your primary care physician as well.