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When to Go to the Emergency Department and What to Expect

  • Wheezing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Fractures
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Sudden numbness or weakness
  • Bleeding that can’t be stopped
  • Abdominal pain- especially intense localized (in one spot)
  • Fever with convulsions or any fever in children under 3 months
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Severe headache or head injury, especially on aspirin or blood thinners
  • Blood in the urine, or bloody diarrhea
  • Sudden inability to speak, see, walk, or move
  • You will be asked if you have a fever, cough, or had contact with COVID-19
  • You will have your temperature checked
  • A facemask will be provided if you don’t have one
  • You may be asked to go back to your private vehicle or waiting room until a bed is ready

Triage: A nurse will evaluate the seriousness of your illness or injury

  • They will check your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and ask questions.
  • You may be sent back to your private vehicle or to the waiting room until a bed is ready.
  • Tell a nurse if you have difficulty with overstimulating environments or long waits.
  • Ask if they have a quieter area for minor illnesses/injuries to help you to be seen ASAP.
  • Inform the nurse of any special communication needs.

Registration: How a medical record is made of your visit. 

  • Have a photo identification card and your medical insurance card with you.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form for treatment and payment responsibility.

Examination: Staff will prepare you to be seen by the doctor. 

  • Blood tests, x-rays, or other tests may be taken at this time.
  • The nurse and doctor will do the best they can to relieve your pain as soon as possible.
  • Sometimes medication can only be given after tests or x-rays have been completed.
  • X-rays are looked at first by an emergency doctor and also read by a radiologist.

Long Wait Times: There are many reasons I may have to wait. 

  • Critically ill or injured patients need immediate treatment, even if they arrived after you.
  • Lab and/or x-ray has been called to perform a procedure to help evaluate your condition. Lab tests are highly complicated and take time to complete.
  • A specialty room is needed for your treatment.

Family and Caregivers: What if I need help?

  • If you need your family or caregiver to  help you communicate, you tell the nurse during triage and registration.

Discharge: When care is complete

  • Staff will provide you with written and verbal instructions.
  • If it’s necessary for you to be admitted to the hospital, your ED physician will coordinate with your doctor or one of the hospital’s in-house doctors.

Billing: You may need to pay your co-pay before you leave

  • You should have money or a debit or credit card with you to make this payment.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.