Myths about emergency care

In Good Health, Topics
ER sign

How health care is provided in the community has changed a lot over the years – from where you seek emergency care to who may provide that care. As a result, hospitals across the country are redefining what it looks like to get care in an emergency room.

Myth 1: You are seen in the order you arrive or at an appointment time

“Care in an emergency room is prioritized to our patients who are the sickest and in need of treatment immediately,” said Christopher Hunt, MD, an emergency physician at McLaren Port Huron. “During the triage process we determine which patients need to be placed in a room first. This is not determined by when they checked in, when or how they arrived at the hospital, or how long they have been waiting.”

When a patient arrives at the Emergency Department and checks in, they will be called up and evaluated (triaged) by a medical professional. Most of the time this process includes a nurse and either an emergency department technician or a nurse assistant. The patient will explain their symptoms and reason for being at the ER. While providing this information, the triage staff will get baseline health information (blood pressure, temperature, etc.).

Once the triage process is competed patients will be placed in a room or in the waiting area, depending on the availability of beds and the seriousness of the injury or illness. The Emergency Department staff may order laboratory or radiology tests and treatment for those in the waiting room to expedite care.

Myth 2: Care begins in an ER exam room

Emergency departments have been forced to think outside of the box to continue to provide the best emergency care to everyone quickly, safely and responsibly in the new world of pandemics and high patient volumes.

"Some patients may receive treatment in our waiting room if their conditions warrants, they may be discharged home without being placed in a room with a bed in the Emergency Department," said Dr. Hunt.

This treatment could include receiving some medications to help manage symptoms while the patient is waiting, or it could include further tests needed to help diagnose the patient. These tests could include blood work, X-rays, CT scans and more.

Once a patient has completed the triage process and received initial treatment and testing, the patient will wait for test results before staff can determine next steps. If it is determined that a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, they may be moved to an emergency department room until a room in the hospital is available.

Myth 3: You will always be seen by a doctor

"We are reimagining the delivery of care," said Melissa Perrin, RN, director of the Emergency Department at McLaren Port Huron. "When you come to the ER, you'll be seen by a nurse, and most of the time, a provider such as a physician and/or physician assistant or nurse practitioner."

NP's and PA's are licensed clinicians who hold advanced degrees and practice under the supervision of a physician. These mid-level providers have been trained to order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose disease, prescribe medications, and create treatment plans. This care is provided under the guidance of an emergency physician.

Myth 4: Your doctor will be in a white lab coat

Not only will the four walls you receive care in look different, but so might those providing care.

"Most ER providers no longer wear the traditional white lab coats. We are dressed in scrubs that are easily changed and cleaned,” said Dr. Hunt. "I think it’s also important for patients to know that while you may not see a doctor, we are always reviewing the charts of our emergency patients and advising our nurses and mid-level providers.”

While care in the Emergency Department might look different, the goal is to expedite the process so patients can receive care, feel better, and get back home to continuing their healing journey.