What to expect during your emergency room visit

emergency trauma 1

Our staff understands how stressful an emergency visit can be, and we will do our best to reduce anxiety for you and your child.

What happens when you arrive at the emergency department?

  • You will sign in your child at the front desk.
  • Within a short time, a nurse will call your child's name for a brief evaluation.
  • Please be ready to share your child's story and what has led you to the emergency department.
  • A nurse will check your child's symptoms, listen to his/her heart and lungs, and ask questions to evaluate your child's illness or injury.
  • Even if your primary doctor called ahead, your child will still need to be checked in by a nurse.

When will we be seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner?

  • Children are not always seen in the order they arrive.
  • A child who arrives after your child may be more ill or injured, even though it may not be noticeable to you.
  • A stoplight near the check-in desk shows the approximate wait time to be brought to an exam room:

Red: Greater than 2 hours

Yellow:  1-2 hours
Green: Less than 1 hour

  • Wait times may change without notice.
  • Please be assured that we will be with you and your child as soon as possible.

Why are we waiting?
We know the wait can be frustrating and appreciate your patience. Many things can affect wait times:

  • Another child's condition may change and require immediate attention.
  • Other children may be arriving by ambulance.
  • Children may need to wait in an exam room until they are admitted to the hospital for further care.

What should we do while we wait?

  • Stay in the waiting area until a nurse asks you to come to an exam room.
  • Eating or drinking may delay tests so please do not allow your child to eat or drink until he/she has been seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner.
  • If your child's condition changes while you are waiting, please inform the staff.

What will happen when we are taken to an exam room?

  • Someone from our staff will get your contact and insurance information.
  • A nurse will recheck your child and prepare him/her to see a doctor or nurse practitioner.
  • Sometimes you may need to wait until the doctor or nurse practitioner is available.
  • A doctor or nurse practitioner will examine your child and determine the plan of care.
  • If your child needs to stay at the hospital, our staff will explain the next steps.

What resources are available?

  • Language interpreters - available 24 hours a day
  • Child life specialists - to help relieve anxiety by explaining what's happening in children's terms or using distracting activities
  • Social workers - to help you get information about other resources

These services are offered free of charge to you. Let our staff know if you would like to use any of them while here at Children's.

Preparing for your visit
The best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be ready to provide important health information, including insurance; your primary doctor and other doctors' names and contact information, immunizations and past medical history, allergies and medications, and a chronological sequence of events leading to your child's ER visit. You may be asked this information several times during your visit.
  • Look for an opportunity to drive by Children's Hospitals in Minneapolis or St. Paul with your kids one day. Casually point out that this building might be where you would come if your child ever needed a doctor right away, like if they fell out of a tree and hurt their arm.
  • If time permits, bring items to keep your child occupied and comfortable. Bring books, electronic games, and comforting items such as a blankie or favorite toy. Pack drinks and snacks, but always check with your nurse or doctor first before feeding your child.
  • If you think there's a chance that your child might have to be admitted to the hospital, you may want to grab a change of clothes and toothbrushes for you and your child.
  • In the event of an emergency, keep calm and communicate well with your child about what might behappening. Reassure your child that the doctors and nurses have taken care of many, many kids and are there to help.


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