Published: July 26, 2010
Updated: Apr. 22, 2011
Emergency department environments are continually changing, and Duke’s Emergency Medicine and Trauma Center can assume many personalities throughout a single day.
Sometimes it is quiet and steady as patients come through with minor illnesses and injuries. Other times, our facilities are alive with action as emergency care experts pull critically ill or injured patients from ambulances -- and try desperately to save lives.
Regardless of the moment or the intensity of the situations we face, Duke Medicine’s three emergency departments are always open, and the professionals who work in them are prepared for all types of emergencies.
Learn what to expect during a visit to the ED in terms of time restraints, triage, visitors, diagnosis, and the team approach to care.
Like emergency departments around the nation, the Duke Emergency and Trauma Center experiences overcrowding. We do our best to treat patients as soon as possible, but sometimes there is a wait.
Patients should understand that because our goal is to treat every patient as quickly as possible, we work as quickly as we can without compromising our level of care.
Patients who do not require immediate action from a physician are typically first sent to triage, where nurses evaluate their vital signs, and their conditions are prioritized. If a bed is available, the patient is moved to a room at that time.
Patients are seen by triage nurses in the order in which they arrive, unless another patient arrives who needs more urgent evaluation and treatment.
Visitors are allowed to be with ED patients, unless our staff identifies an important reason indicating that visitors are not advisable. Once patients are in the treatment area, they may ask their nurse to bring their visitors to that area.
After obtaining information about a patient, the emergency physician conducts a physical examination to determine an appropriate diagnosis.
If a diagnosis cannot be formulated from the examination and other available information, the physician orders diagnostic tests. In difficult cases, the physician may consult with other specialists to determine an appropriate diagnosis and further course of action.
Patients are cared for by both nurses and physician team members.
Because Duke is a prominent academic medical center -- and many residents spend a portion of their training in the ED -- patients are seen by both resident and attending physicians. They may also be seen by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner.