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What to Expect

What to Expect in the Emergency Department

Tacoma General ED Entrance

Preparing to Go to the Emergency Department

When you go to the Emergency Department (ED), it's important to know your medical history including allergies, past illnesses, injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions.

Medical history should include:

  • Medications your child is taking
  • Allergies
  • History of previous hospitalizations
  • Any previous surgeries
  • Illnesses
  • Relevant family history

At any ED, except in the most critical emergencies, be prepared to wait. You may also want to bring pen and paper to write down any questions you have for the doctor. Bring things for children to do as well, such as crayons, books, toys, and comforting objects, like stuffed animals.

What to Expect at the ED

There's no way to predict how long you'll have to wait to be seen at the ED. If you have a severe medical problem, be assured that the doctors will provide whatever attention is needed right away. Because doctors attend to the most severe injuries and illnesses first, there's a good chance that if you are there with a minor injury, you'll have to wait longer. Even if the waiting room is empty, you still may have to wait if the exam rooms are filled or many doctors and nurses are attending to a particularly serious case.

When you're in the ED, it's a good idea to write down important information from the visit. It can be hard to remember details you may need later, such as the names of any doctors you saw, what they say about the illness or injury, any medications or treatment they give you, and any directions for follow-up or care at home.

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

Not sure what level of care you need? Learn more about where to seek care.

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