Patients come to the department because the are hurt, suffering, confused, feeling ill, or scared. This is usually their first visit seeking emergency care, and can be overwhelmed by the system. One of the keys to providing patient centered care is inform them as much as possible about the what to expect and what is going on while they are in the emergency department.

Helping Patients Navigate the Emergency Department

Understanding the process comforts the patient that they are actively being cared for, and not forgotten. This can be done in many ways. It occurs during every personal interaction, at transitions of care, and periodically during the visit.

One way to augment this communication, is to providing written material to the patient with basic information. The letter below is a sample of what can be provided to an emergency department patient to help them understand the emergency department and what to expect.

To Patients and Visitors of Our Emergency Department

Visiting an emergency department is an unexpected and stressful experience. Our team in the Emergency Department are highly trained to provide the care you need no matter what the problem, on an unscheduled basis, without an appointment, irrespective of citizenship status or the ability to pay.

We want you to understand how you will be cared for during your visit.

Our Emergency Department offers 3 distinct services to appropriately meet your needs. These services are:

  • Urgent Care. As the name suggests, this area of the Emergency Department is designed to provide rapid care for non-life threatening illnesses and injuries. Theese services are available 7 days a week from 7 am to 10 pm.
  • Emergency Department. Equipment and services to treat stable, urgent and emergent illnesses and injuries are available 24 hours a day.
  • Stabilization Center. Capabilities include specialized emergency resuscitation, diagnostic, surgical and critical care services that are specifically organized for immediate response to provide care and treatment for patients with immediate life-threatening problems.


Your treatment begins at this point. In the Emergency Department, it is extremely important that the most critically ill and injured patients are seen first. This process is called “triage”. The triage nurse will:

  • Confirm the reason for your visit, your name and birth date.
  • Ask about any medications you are taking and any allergies you may have.
  • Obtain a brief medical history.
  • Take your vital signs: blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.
  • Assess the urgency of your condition.
  • Some patients may have preliminary tests or x-rays done.
  • Basic treatments for pain, fever, shortness of breath may be started if indicated.
  • If your doctor referred you to the Emergency Department, the Triage Nurse will still have to determine the urgency of your condition. Even if your doctor has phoned ahead, you may have to wait if there are more urgent patients requiring treatment.

It is very important that you notify the triage nurse if your condition changes at any point while you are waiting.

Consult the triage nurse before eating or drinking as it may affect your treatment plan.

How long will I wait?

Waiting times depend on the seriousness of your condition and the condition of the other patients waiting for care. We take care of patients with the most serious problem first. Staff can only approximate waiting time, and this may change as additional patients arrive. Our promise is to speed your treatment as much as possible, and always keep you informe