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Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Expect From the Emergency & Trauma Center Visit?

Upon entering the waiting room, you will be greeted by the registrar or nurse in the triage area. The triage nurse is a registered nurse who is specially trained to ask questions about your medical condition and determine the seriousness of your illness or injury. Patients are seen based on their medical condition determined from this assessment, not on their order of arrival.

Once the triage nurse completes the medical screening exam, a registration clerk will obtain your personal and financial information. Upon completion of the registration process, you may be asked to be seated in the waiting room until a bed is available. When you go back to the Emergency and Trauma Center, a registered nurse and one or more providers will care you for. During your visit, lab work, x-rays and medication may be ordered to help the staff treat you.

What Should I Bring With Me to My Emergency & Trauma Center Visit?

If possible, please bring a list of your current medications. In addition, advance directors or POLST are also useful to us. Lastly, please bring someone to accompany you during your visit. Often times it is helpful to have someone else present to help remember provider instructions.

Is There a Phone Available So That I Can Call My Friends & Family?

Yes. There is a pay phone in the Waiting Room. The staff can also assist by placing a phone call to your family member or friend if requested.

How Long Will My Visit Take?

This will depend on how many patients are in the Emergency and Trauma Center and how sick you are. While this may extend your visit with us, it will not affect the quality of care. If your care requires blood tests, X-rays and consultations with other specialists, more time may be needed. On average, the shortest visit is one to two hours, while the longest visit can be six to eight hours if your illness is very complicated.

What if I Leave Before Being Seen by a Doctor?

If, for some reason, you must leave the Emergency Department before a doctor sees you, please notify the nurse or clerk at the front desk. The risks of leaving include worsening of your condition, which could lead to permanent disability or death. If you have questions about your condition and the risk of leaving, please ask the nurse or physician.

What Questions Will the Staff Ask Me?

We will ask you a series of questions to find out why you are here and how we can best help you. We will ask you what medical problems you know about (high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, etc.),what medications you are taking and whether you have ever experienced any bad reactions to any medications.

Everyone Asks Me for the Same Information. Don’t You Talk to Each Other?

There are many people caring for you while you are with us. Each person has a different job and need for information. We want to provide you with the best care possible, and asking questions is the most effective way to find out how to help you. It may seem repetitive, but we do not want to miss anything.

Can I Pick the Doctor/Will My Primary Doctor Come See Me?

An ER provider will be assigned to you based on your acuity.

Will My Regular Doctor be Called?

The Emergency & Trauma Center physician may contact your family doctor if necessary to discuss your treatment plan, or if they feel you need admission to the medical center. However, you may request that your primary care doctor be contacted at any time.

Will I Need to Be Admitted to the Medical Center?

This will be determined after a thorough examination by one of our providers. Patients admitted to the medical center need tests or treatments not performed in the ER. Examples of such circumstances include infections needing IV antibiotics or patients who might have had a heart attack or need surgery.

If My Doctor Tells Me I Should Have a Test, Do I Have to Have it Done?

All tests requested by the ER providers are used to find out what is wrong with you and how we can best treat your illness. Please ask why we are recommending a test and that the risks and benefits are explained to you. You may refuse any treatment or test. However, if you do, we may not be able to determine what is wrong with you.

I Was Told by the ER provider Who Saw Me That He/She Does Not Know What is Wrong with Me After Treatment. What Does This Mean?

Our first goal in the Emergency & Trauma Center is to treat life-threatening illness and pain. We do not do many tests for illnesses that are not emergencies and we may not be able to determine why you feel sick today. This does not mean we think there is nothing wrong with you. Instead, we have determined that your illness is not life threatening or require hospitalization. You may need more tests and long-term care than we are able to provide in the Emergency & Trauma Center. It is important that you go to your doctor or clinic appointment after leaving us so they may continue to treat you.

Can I Have Visitors While I am in the Emergency & Trauma Center?

Usually patients are allowed to have one visitor at a time, if we are not doing tests at that time. We try to keep visitors to one per patient because we have limited space, although there are exceptions. In fact, it is important that both parents stay with a child who is being treated in the Emergency & Trauma Center. Limiting the number of people in the Emergency Department also helps us protect our patients’ privacy and gives the staff enough space to perform their duties quickly. When the Emergency Department is busy, or if we have to perform a procedure, we may ask the visitors to wait in the waiting room.

Where Can I Get Something to Eat or Drink?

If you are a patient waiting to be seen by the doctor, please contact the nurse before you eat or drink anything. If you are not a patient, or if the nurse says you can eat, there are vending machines located on the ground floor, beside the cafeteria. The cafeteria is open to families, visitors and the public from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center
2901 Squalicum Pkwy
Bellingham, WA 98225