What to Expect

An emergency department trip can be nerve-wracking and daunting – for children and parents alike, but knowing what to expect can make the entire experience a lot less stressful. Here is our step-by-step guide of what patients and families can expect at the emergency department:


A registered nurse at the screening desk will greet each family upon entering the ED lobby and determines the reason for visiting. If there’s a wait, patients will be called to the screening desk in the order of their arrival – unless the child’s condition requires immediate attention.


Next, an employee will obtain the child’s registration information. The child’s basic information is confirmed upon arrival at the ED and more detailed information, including the child’s insurance carrier and primary doctor, are collected before the child leaves the ED.


The child will be called into a triage suite, where a nurse will ask questions, collect vital information such as temperature, pulse and weight, and perform a basic exam. During triage, the nurse assesses the child’s condition and determines the urgency of the situation and what type of care the child will need. In most cases, children are seen by a triage nurse in the order that they have arrived, but those with serious injuries or illnesses may go ahead of other patients. This is why you might notice some families being called first even if they arrived after you. If a treatment area or exam room is available upon your arrival, you may bypass the triage process entirely.


If all treatment rooms are full following triage, the child and his or her family will wait in the lobby. While there, it is important that the child not eat or drink. It is also important to tell the screening nurse if the child’s condition changes or if the child needs a scheduled medication. If you must leave the ED before treatment, notify an employee.

Treatment Area/Exam Room

This is where the child will receive treatment. The ED has several types of treatment areas that are each set up to provide a specific type of care. You might notice another family called ahead of you from the lobby should a space related to that child’s needs become available.

Once inside, you will be given a hospital gown for the child. Please undress the child and place him or her in the gown as quickly as possible to avoid a delay in the exam. If you bypassed the triage process, your child will undergo a similar exam here before seeing an ED physician.

The doctor might order tests and perform treatments, which will all be carefully explained to you. The physician will explain the results of all the tests and provide a plan for follow-up care, and, if necessary, hospital admission.


A patient is discharged once the physician gives approval for your child to leave. Be sure to have a clear understanding of any instructions from the physician before leaving the hospital.

What to Bring to the ED

The decision to take a sick or injured child to the Emergency Department (ED) usually must be made quickly, but if you have some time, consider bringing along a few items that could prove helpful during the visit:

  • Diapers, formula and other baby supplies.
  • Any special medical equipment (such as feeding tubes and formula) the child may need while in the ED.
  • A list of any medicines your child takes.
  • Any referral paperwork, X-rays or lab results.
  • A blanket, stuffed animal, favorite toy or anything else that will comfort the child.
  • Personal necessities, such as a cellular phone charger and change for the pay phone.

Though documentation is not necessary, it’s important to know the following information when you visit the ED:

  • If the child is current on his or her immunizations.
  • The child’s primary physician.
  • The child’s medical history.

Here’s what not to bring to the ED:

  • Food or drink is not allowed in the ED, and consuming anything before treatment can put a child at risk.
  • If possible, try to make childcare arrangements for infant siblings during influenza season. Babies are at particular risk for contracting the flu.

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