What to Expect During Your Visit to the Emergency Department 

We are here to help

The main goal of the Emergency Department at Saint Louis University Hospital is to help you feel better. One way we can do that is to let you know what to expect while you are with us. Here are answers to questions often asked by our visitors. We hope this information helps make your visit as pleasant as possible.

The Emergency Department at Saint Louis University Hospital is the only Level 1 Trauma Center certified by both Missouri and Illinois. Annually, we admit more than 2,000 trauma cases – including some of the most critical or severely injured patients in the Midwest. More than 21,000 emergency patients are treated annually by the hospital's Emergency Department, which has 13 treatment areas and two trauma rooms. All of the full-time, permanent physicians working in our Emergency Department are board certified or board eligible in Emergency Medicine. Our nurses are either board certified in emergency medicine nursing or have at least three years of critical care experience.


Who is the first person I talk to when I arrive at the Emergency Department?

You may talk with the Emergency Department's greeter, who will ask you for basic information such as your name, age and social security number. This information is used to start setting up your hospital medical record. The next person you may meet is the triage nurse. He or she will talk with you about your illness or injury and ask questions about your medical background. "Triage" means figuring out which patients need help first. The information you give to the triage nurse is a way for us to see how quickly you need a doctor.


Why can't I see a doctor right away

We try to take care of patients in the order they arrive. But sometimes we need to treat more serious cases first. For example, a person hurt in a car accident may be seen before someone with a headache or a sprained ankle.


How long do I have to wait?

You may have to wait an hour or longer before you see a doctor.


Why is the wait so long?

Many seriously ill or injured patients are sent to us because our Emergency Department is part of the hospital's Level 1 Trauma Center. You may be visiting us at a time when these other patients need help more quickly than you do. Or, we may be having a busy day with a lot of patients to take care of.


How long will it be before I can leave the Emergency Department?

The total time of your visit to the Emergency Department may last between three and six hours. The length of time depends on:
 - how quickly you are seen by a doctor
 - the types of tests you need
 - how long it takes to get the results of the tests back

Who will take care of me while I'm being treated?

The people taking care of you may include some or all of the following:
 - Attending physician: the doctor in charge of your care. All of our
   attending physicians are board certified/eligible and are Saint Louis
   University School of Medicine faculty members.
 - Resident physician: a doctor with a medical license who is getting
   more training.
 - Physician assistant: a certified healthcare professional working with
   the supervision of an attending physician.
 - Intern: a medical school graduate getting more training to receive a
   medical license.
 - Primary nurse: the nurse who cares for you throughout your
   treatment in the Emergency Department.
 - Emergency room technicians: healthcare professionals who assist
   the doctors and nurses. They are trained to draw blood and take
   electrocardiograms (records of the heart's activity).
 - X-ray technicians: specialists responsible for transporting patients
   to the Radiology Department, taking X-rays and then bringing
   patients back to the Emergency Department.
   back to the Emergency Department.
 - Respiratory therapists: specialists trained to help people with
   breathing problems.

What happens when it's my turn to see the doctor?

When it is your turn to see a doctor, you will go to one of the Emergency Department's treatment rooms. Your primary nurse will get you ready for the doctor to see you. Because Saint Louis University Hospital is a teaching hospital, the next person you may see is an intern, resident or medical student. He or she will complete your medical exam and give your attending physician a summary of your condition and the steps that should be taken next. These steps may include X-rays and laboratory tests on your blood. The attending physicians will decide how best to treat your injury or illness when he or she sees the results of your tests and exam.

While the doctors are examining you, you may be given medicine to make you more comfortable or to help your condition. This may include medicine given intravenously (through a needle inserted into one of your veins). Or, your medications may be stopped until a diagnosis is made so your symptoms are not hidden.

Once your treatment is complete, the attending physician will sign papers so you can leave. Your nurse will give you written directions on how to care for yourself when you get home and what follow-up treatment you may need. You will then be taken to the registration area.


What other information do you need from me - and why?

At the end of your visit to the Emergency Department, you will talk with an admitting representative. He or she will need the following information:

 - Your address and telephone number
 - Your social security number
 - The name and address of your employer, if you have one
 - The name of your health insurance company and proof of your
   coverage, such as an insurance identification card

This information will help us set up your permanent medical record with the hospital. All of your medical information for this visit and any others in the future will be included in this file. Any health insurance co-payment you are responsible for will be due from you at this time.


What if I don't have health insurance?

You will receive the same treatment whether or not you have health insurance. You are responsible for paying hour hospital bill, and you can make a full or partial payment when you talk with the admitting representative.


Will I have to be admitted to the hospital?

You only need to stay in the hospital if the doctors think you need more care, or if they want to keep an eye on you for a while. When this is the case, the Emergency Department will contact the Admitting Department to have a room assigned to you. How quickly you are taken to your room depends on the number of patients in the hospital. When there are a lot of patients, you may have to wait until another patient is discharged and the room is cleaned and disinfected. This may mean you will have to wait in the Emergency Department for some time. We will make you as comfortable as possible until your room is ready.


Can someone be with me while I'm in a treatment room?

Yes, you may have two visitors with you. Both of them must display a visitor's pass, which we'll provide. There are times when we may ask your visitors to remain in the waiting area or to step out of the Emergency Department. These requests are made for your privacy as well as for the privacy of our other patients. We may also make this request during the times when members of our medical staff need to give you care. It is important for your visitors to follow our instructions.


If my family or friends aren't with me, how will they know how I'm doing?

Our nurses try to check back with your family or friends often to let them know how you are doing. But sometimes they are busy treating many people. Those waiting for you should feel free to ask a nurse about you whenever they feel anxious or concerned.


Where is the Emergency Department located?

The Emergency Department entrance at Saint Louis University Hospital is located on the south side of the hospital on Vista Avenue, one-half block west of Grand Boulevard.


Is there parking nearby?

Daily visitor parking is available in the Vista Avenue garage (located on the south side of the hospital) at a rate of 50 cents an hour, with special discounted passes for patients and families.
Patients and their visitors may receive a $1 a day parking pass from the Information Desk in the hospital lobby.

Is there somewhere nearby to get something to eat and drink?

Before getting anything to eat or drink while you wait to see a doctor, be sure to check with the triage nurse. It may be better for you to wait until after you receive treatment to have a meal or snack. For your family or friends who would like something to eat or drink, Saint Louis University Hospital's cafeteria is located on the first floor of the hospital. It is open from midnight to 2 a.m.; 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch; and 4:30-7 p.m. for dinner. Full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are available during regular meal hours, and snack and grab-and-go items are available between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner. Vending machines located in the cafeteria have soft drinks and snacks. In addition, the hospital's Coffee Cart is located between the main lobby and the parking garage escalators. It offers specialty coffees and pastries from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Vending machines are also located next to the Emergency Department waiting area.


Can I smoke in the hospital?

No, smoking is not allowed in the hospital. Cigarettes are not sold here. However, visitors may use certain areas set aside outside the hospital to smoke. The Emergency Department's Protective Services officers can direct your family or friends to these areas. As a patient, you should check with a nurse before you smoke and/or leave the Emergency Department.


What other hospital services are available to me?

Other services that may be of help are:

Social Work

Pastoral Care

If you would like to talk with a chaplain, ask your primary nurse to contact the chaplain on call. Catholic Mass is said in the chapel on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and Monday through Friday at noon. The hospital chapel is open 24 hours a day. It is located on the third floor of the hospital. Any staff member can give you directions to the chapel.

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