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What to Expect 

What to Expect in the Emergency Room (ER)

You never know when an emergency may happen, but you can count on us to provide you with quality emergency care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Knowing what to expect during your visit to the emergency room may help put you more at ease.

When should I seek emergency care?

There are many symptoms that may signal a condition requiring immediate emergency care. View a list of potential emergency situations and conditions on our HealthSource Library.

For minor injuries or illnesses, contact your primary care physician for guidance on the best course of action.

What should I bring with me to the ER?

Take a moment to make sure you have the following items easily accessible for yourself and your loved ones, so you can save time in the event of an emergency:

  • Form of identification
  • Insurance card or information
  • List of current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins or supplements
  • Name and contact information of your primary care physician
  • List of allergies, health conditions, previous surgeries and family health history

How do you decide which patients are seen first?

In the ER, patients are treated based on the severity of their condition. Those who arrive first may not necessarily be seen first.

When you arrive in the ER, a nurse will assess your condition and record your vital signs, such as your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse will then triage you based on your symptoms.

Many of our facilities provide different care areas for different levels of severity. Patients will be placed in exam rooms or a care area based on this initial evaluation. Once in the exam room, a physician or mid-level provider on the medical staff will examine you and create a plan of care.

In the event of a life-threatening condition, such as severe trauma, difficulty breathing or signs of heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately. Paramedics or emergency medical technicians provide essential care in the field and bring you or your loved one safely and quickly to the ER by ambulance. This helps our ER team be prepared for your arrival and start life-saving treatment faster.

Who will care for me?

All Baylor emergency departments are staff by physicians on the medical staff. Our care team also includes physician assistants, nurse practitioners, specially trained nurses, patient care technicians, radiology technicians, lab technicians, access services staff and pharmacists. Additional resources, such as pastoral care staff and case managers, are available to provide extra support during your ER visit.

Our care team will work together to create a plan of care for each patient based on their condition. We are committed to communicating with you about your plan of care and answering your questions about continued care needs after your leave the ER.

What tests might I expect, and how long do they take?

To help diagnose your condition, the physician may order tests including lab work and imaging procedures. Depending on the test or procedure, please expect up to 2-3 hours to receive test results for non-critical cases. This allows time for accurate processing and quality diagnostic reports.

For life-threatening conditions, we know seconds count. Policies and procedures are in place to ensure these patients receive fast test result turnaround. The most critical patients will receive first priority for any needed tests or imaging procedures.

What are my rights as a patient?

Under federal law, every patient has the right to be evaluated and stabilized in the ER regardless of condition or proof of insurance.

You have the right to understand any procedures and know the risks. You may be required to sign forms indicating your consent for treatment.

What should I know about insurance and ER visits?

We encourage you to do your research before you find yourself in an emergency situation. Contact your insurance provider to understand which hospitals are covered, as well as your copays or deductibles for ER visits.

Some insurance companies may require you notify them within a certain timeframe, such as 24 hours, if you visit the ER. Some insurance companies also may require you to contact your primary care physician prior to visiting the ER for a non-emergent condition.

Additional Resources

Learn more about what to expect in the ER, common emergency conditions and more in our HealthSource Library.