What to expect during your emergency room visit

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, our staff understands how stressful an emergency visit can be. We’ll do our best to reduce anxiety for you and your child.

When you arrive

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.

In the waiting area

Be assured a doctor or nurse practitioner will see your child as soon as possible, but please note that 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.

How long will you have to wait?

We know the wait can be frustrating and appreciate your patience.

  • A stoplight near the check-in desk shows the approximate wait time to be brought to an exam room:
    • Red: Greater than two hours
    • Yellow: 1-2 hours
    • Green: Less than one hour
  • Wait times may change without notice.
  • 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 you do while you 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.

In the exam room

What will happen when you go 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.

Available resources

Several resources are available to patients and families visiting the emergency room, free of charge, including:

Let our staff know if you would like to use any of them while here at Children’s.

Preparing for a visit, before you need one

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.
  • Drive by Children’s Hospitals in Minneapolis or St. Paul with your kids. 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 be happening. Reassure your child that the doctors and nurses have taken care of many, many kids and are there to help.
  • Complete an emergency contact form. Be sure that you—and anyone who cares for your children—are ready in case of an emergency. Download, fill out and post our emergency contact form so everyone knows where to take your kids.



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