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What to expect at the emergency department

Home Services Emergency What to expect at the emergency department

Knowing what to expect
can ease your mind

When it comes to an emergency hospital visit, there should be no surprises with your treatment. We understand that an emergency situation is stressful and we want you to know what to expect when you visit our emergency department.

After you arrive and check in, a triage nurse will evaluate your situation to determine the urgency of your condition. At most of our locations, you’ll then be taken to a treatment room where an experienced provider will examine you and discuss your treatment options.

We see everyone as quickly as possible; however, we do treat the most critically-ill patients first. Our staff will do its best to speed the process and we’re always available to answer any questions you may have. See our ER wait times here.

While it is our goal to keep you as comfortable as possible during your wait, we are unable to give pain medication to patients in the waiting area.

If you need to use a bathroom, please check in with our staff members as a urine sample may be needed. Also, please ask before eating or drinking anything to be sure that this is safe for your medical condition.


Treatment - Once you are called back to the treatment area, a team of professionals works together to assess your medical need. They may need to order or perform laboratory tests, X-rays or other tests to help diagnose and treat your condition. Note that these tests may take time to complete. If you want to speak to an interpreter, social worker or chaplain, let us know.

Should you need a higher level of care, you will be admitted to one of our hospitals for further treatment. In addition, we will work with your primary care physician to coordinate your care going forward.

Visitor guidelines - We know that any visit to the emergency department can create anxiety for you and your family and friends. We welcome visitors in the ED; however, we ask that no more than two individuals at a time visit with a patient. In end-of-life situations, we may allow more, so please check with our staff in those situations.

Suicide screening guidelines - As part of our care plan, we administer a suicide screening examination to all patients age 6 and older that are treated in our EDs. This short, three-question survey identifies patients who may have suicidal feelings and need further evaluation. It is important to know that your answers will not impact the quality of care you receive in any way.

Domestic violence guidelines - All patients age 14 and older (younger at some locations) that are treated in our EDs are screened for warning signs of domestic violence. Because these questions must be asked in private, parents / guardians will be asked to leave the room during this brief conversation. While the vast majority of our patients have no indication of abuse or neglect, this screening is vital in helping us protect those few who may be victims of domestic violence. This screening does not impact the quality of care we provide in any way.

Some of our locations offer Project Safe, a confidential program that provides medical care and a connection to community resources for men, women and children of all ages who are experiencing violence in the home.

Mental behavioral health services - Before being seen by a provider, a triage nurse will evaluate any patient who comes to our ED with mental health issues. Our staff will do its best to speed the process and we’re always available to answer any questions you may have.

Pediatric emergency department care - All of our Novant Health EDs offer care and treatment to newborns, toddlers, adolescents and teenagers. Our doctors and nurses help ensure a warm and caring environment while thoroughly communicating diagnosis and treatment options to parents and children.

If you have any questions that were not answered in this section on what to expect, contact the Novant Health emergency department nearest you.