What to Expect

Most patients arriving by ambulance are taken directly into the treatment area where they are assessed by a registered nurse and physician. Others enter the Emergency Department through the waiting area. Patients are then "triaged" by a registered nurse, according to the severity of condition. Triage means "to sort," and the nurse determines which patients need to be seen immediately and which are able to wait, if necessary.

A physician will see every patient and all emergency conditions will be stabilized. Those with serious or life-threatening conditions will be seen before other patients. The physician will discuss findings and diagnosis, along with treatment plans. The patient will be given written discharge instructions that outline follow-up care. The discharge process takes 10 to 30 minutes.

Am I having an emergency?

Only you can determine if you are having an emergency. Unfortunately, we cannot give medical advice over the phone. If you need advice, call your primary care physician. If you think you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 or come the nearest emergency department.

Who Gets Treated First

We try to see patients in order of arrival; however, several factors affect this. Patients with more urgent medical needs may be taken in before less urgent patients. There are also critically ill patients arriving by ambulances who will be seen first.

Providence Little Company of Mary has a "Fast Track" area, which specializes in minor emergencies where we try to treat those patients quickly. There are times when the wait for less urgent cases is shorter because of the Fast Track system. If there is a wait before you can be seen, the triage nurse may order some initial tests such as x-rays, EKGs or blood tests. These will be done while you are in the waiting room to expedite your care. The on-duty physician oversees these tests based on your symptoms, vital signs and medical history.


Registration is essential to your care in the Emergency Department. Registration allows us to keep medical records and track your progress through the Department. It is necessary for all patients to register, which takes approximately 20 minutes, depending on the number of patients waiting at any given time. If possible, please bring your insurance information and a photo ID with you to the Emergency Department.

Upon arrival you will be asked vital information: name, birth date, and social security number. We are not allowed to ask for insurance information until you are seen by a doctor. Please have this information available when asked. You may visit our "Forms" section and print out registration forms and have them ready for your registration clerk upon arrival in the department. If you have a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 immediately. Your forms can be filled out when you arrive at the hospital.

How long will my visit take?

Many factors affect your time in the Emergency Department. The time it takes to complete your care will vary based on your injuries or medical condition, and how busy the department is at your time of arrival. For more simple complaints such as minor infections, sprains or lacerations, our goal is to have you treated and discharged in 1 - 2 hours. For more complex complaints such as abdominal pain, chest pain or weakness, more extensive diagnostic testing will be required which can take between 2 - 5 hours. Our commitment is to provide the best possible health care to our patients. Although our goal is to keep the waiting room empty and wait times to a minimum, we want to be sure that you are taken care of before discharge.

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic testing is important for your treatment, and allows the doctors to accurately diagnose your condition, prescribe treatment, and determine follow-up care.

Testing increases your wait time in the Emergency Department. Lab tests take approximately 90 to 120 minutes to complete, general X-rays can take up to an hour to be completed and read by a radiologist, and specialty tests, such as CAT scans, ultrasounds and kidney studies can take two to six hours to complete. Wound repair requiring the services of a plastic surgeon and the splinting or casting of fractures also take additional time.

If you have a personal physician, please let us know when you register. A copy of the completed Emergency Department record will be sent to your doctor. If you do not have a personal physician, we will be happy to refer you to a Providence Little Company of Mary Health Services-affiliated physician for follow-up care.

The Emergency Department physician will discuss all available test results with you. If any abnormal test results are received after your discharge, you will be notified immediately. We encourage you to call back if you have any questions regarding your medical care. We are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day.

Pain Medication

All patients experiencing pain will be assessed on a pain scale. You will be offered oral or injection pain medication of either narcotic or non-narcotic type. If your pain is not being treated promptly or adequately, ask your nurse to request an order from your treating physician.

Your Responsibility

It is your responsibility to:

  • Provide an accurate medical history to our triage nurse and physicians
  • Bring an accurate list of your current medications, if possible
  • Inform the triage nurse or your nurse if there is any change in your condition or symptoms after you have arrived
  • Be considerate of all hospital personnel and other patients
  • Respect other patients' privacy

Please see our "Forms" section for a complete list of your rights and responsibilities.

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