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Get to know your hospital’s emergency department
by Leslie Kosak, RN
Mar 11, 2012 | 2487 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leslie Kosak, RN
Leslie Kosak, RN
If you ever need to make a trip to the emergency department (ED) of a hospital, you are among the 123 million people in the United States who make that trip every year. Knowing what to expect can decrease the anxiety associated with visiting an ED.

When you arrive at Northern Nevada Medical Center or a similar ED, a member of the triage team will greet you and evaluate your condition. Those patients with life-threatening conditions will receive treatment immediately.

You will need to be prepared to answer some questions, such as what happened, when the incident happened, the names of any medications you are taking and what treatment (if any) was performed. Your answers will help the ED staff determine the seriousness of your condition.

When your name is called, you will be taken to a room in which a physician, ED nurse or physician assistant will examine you and begin tests or treatment. In some cases a specialist will be called in to help treat you. If you need further treatment, you will be admitted to the hospital. Otherwise, you will be sent home with specific instructions for follow-up care.

Knowing when to visit an emergency department is vital. Some warning symptoms are subtle, and yet they can signal a truly serious condition. One example is chest pain, which can indicate that a heart attack is in progress. Know these symptoms of a heart attack:

• Feeling an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. This symptom is the most common in men and in women. It might last more than a few minutes, or it might go away and then come back.

• Feeling pain or discomfort in one or both arms, in your back, or in your neck or jaw or both. Women are more likely than men to feel back pain.

• Shortness of breath can occur with or without chest discomfort and is more common in women than in men.

• Feeling lightheaded.

• Breaking into a cold sweat.

• Feeling pain or discomfort in your stomach, with nausea and vomiting.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911. Tell the emergency medical services personnel to take you to the nearest ER with an accredited chest pain center. The Accredited Chest Pain Centers at Northern Nevada Medical Center has demonstrated established standard diagnostic and treatment programs that enable physicians to evaluate patients with chest pain and other heart attack symptoms more efficiently and effectively.

Other symptoms might indicate the onset of a “brain attack,” or stroke. You can recognize signs of a stroke by remembering the word FAST.

F = Face: This includes changes to the head and eyes, including trouble seeing in one or both eyes or having double vision; numbness or weakness of one side of the face; a noticeable droop of the one side of the mouth or face; confusion and trouble speaking or understanding; or a severe headache that comes on suddenly and with no known cause.

A = Arms and legs: Effects can include trouble walking, losing balance, becoming dizzy or losing coordination of the arms or legs on one side of the body; weakness or numbness of the arms or legs.

S = Speech, which can include slurred, garbled or unintelligible speech or the inability to talk.

T = Time: This means the time you last saw the person with no symptoms. If you (or another person) experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. As with a heart attack, minutes truly do matter when it comes to stroke. When blood flow is blocked to the heart or the brain, cells begin to die. It is important that you go to an emergency department that you can reach quickly and that is staffed and equipped to treat you swiftly.

Northern Nevada Medical Center has a Certified Primary Stroke Center. The Stroke Response Team at NNMC consists of experienced neurologists and other healthcare professionals whose highest priority is treating stroke. Stroke Response Team members have received training to assess the patient; determine whether the patient has had a stroke; and decide on the appropriate treatment.

So before you need to visit an emergency department, investigate those near you and look for these vital services. Then you can rest assured that high-quality care is nearby.

Leslie Kosak, RN, received her nursing degree from Shasta College and has been an emergency medicine nurse for 17 years. Kosak is will earn her master’s of nursing in April. The Society of Chest Pain Centers has certified Northern Nevada Medical Center is an Accredited Chest Pain Center. NNMC has also earned certification as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission. These credentials demonstrate a higher level of expertise in treating heart attack and stroke patients based on established processes to reduce the time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis and treatment.
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