As a patient in the emergency department

Answers to frequently asked questions about being a patient in an emergency department.

Will I be able to use my native language in the emergency department?

According to the law, patients have the right to receive services in their native language. The first language, individual needs and culture are taken into consideration as far as possible in their treatment.

If the care personnel do not speak the language used by the patient, interpretation is provided if possible. The emergency department will either call an interpreter on site or use a phone/video interpretation service.

I want to see a doctor, so why do I have to speak to a nurse?

The role of the nurse is to assess your need for care based on your symptoms and their urgency so that you will receive the right type of care in the right place at the right time.

Can I register and join the queue and then leave the emergency department to take care of other errands?

It is highly recommended that you wait for your turn in the waiting area. You may, of course, leave the emergency department, but you may miss your turn. While you wait in the waiting area, your condition is also being monitored.

If you leave the emergency department or your condition changes significantly, you should inform the staff immediately. Moreover, staff having to look for their patients adds to the waiting time of others.

Why was I seen by a nurse only and not a doctor?

The nurse first assesses your need of care and its urgency. It may be that to treat your symptoms seeing a doctor is not necessary and instead, you are seen by a nurse.

Nurses receiving patients have specialized training and they are always able to consult a doctor if necessary.

What happens in the emergency department?

On your arrival, a nurse will assess your need of care and its urgency. At this point, it is also decided whether you need to be seen by a doctor or a nurse. After this, you are asked to wait in the waiting area or the monitoring room. You may be seen by another nurse who carries out a more thorough examination. The assessment of your need for care and the urgency may be adjusted at this point. Some examinations are initiated at this point.

Following the examination by a nurse or a doctor and the analysis of the findings, possible further examinations are decided on. Waiting for results from tests may take some time, but during the wait, your conditions are being monitored, and you will receive medication if necessary. Based on the test results and your condition, the doctor will make decisions about your further treatment.

A doctor or a nurse will discharge you. You will be given oral and/or written instructions on further treatment and self-care at home.

Why are some of the tests taken before and some after the examination?

Some of the tests can be taken when assessing your need for care and its urgency, or during the nurse’s consultation. The purpose is to speed up your service and the treatment of your illness or injury. Some tests may turn out to be necessary once you have been consulted the doctor.

Why do I have to wait?

After your symptoms and their urgency have been assessed, you will be asked to wait to be seen by a nurse or doctor.

On busy days, waiting times can be several hours. The waiting time depends on the number of patients and the nature of their illnesses and injuries. We appreciate that waiting is not pleasant, and we thank you for your understanding.

Your waiting time depends on a number of factors:

  • In most cases lab tests are taken and the results may take 0,5 – 2 hours to be ready . Note that some laboratory tests can take several days to come back so their results will not be known during your visit to the emergency department. You will be given instructions by the care staff on how to inquire for your results.
  • X-rays are often needed. The radiology department is a separate unit where the queuing situations vary depending on the number of patients. Radiology departments usually serve patients from several wards and units, which may add to the waiting time. Some emergency departments do not have a radiologist on duty 24/7, so you may need to wait for your x-ray results from another unit.
  • Once your results are back, the doctor will see you again and, based on the findings and your condition, will plan your further care.
  • It is possible that you need further examinations, which means you may need to spend more time in the emergency department.
  • Doctors attend to patients under monitoring as well as to those who are waiting for their turn.
  • Critically ill patients may tie up the staff resources for several hours.

Why do I have to stay in the emergency department to wait for test results?

In the emergency department, the staff concentrate on caring for patients in the emergency department. There are not enough resources to give instructions for further treatment over the phone. The results may also give reason for further examinations or treatment at the hospital, so it may be that you would have to come back anyway.

While you stay in the emergency department to wait for your results, your condition can be monitored and you can be given any necessary medication.

Why do test results take so long to come back?

Sometimes near patient tests can be used in the emergency department, but they are not always enough. Laboratory tests may need to be taken, and they take 30 minutes to 2 hours to analyse.

Emergency department patients also often need to have x-rays. The doctor taking care of you can examine some images, but sometimes they need to be seen by a radiologist. It depends on the emergency department when the radiologist is on duty. Sometimes the x-rays are examined by another hospital and the report is requested electronically.

Why is a patient who arrived after me seen by a doctor before me?

In the emergency department, patients are seen in the order of urgency, not arrival. The order of urgency depends on the severity of illness/injury. Each patient is assessed on arrival for symptoms and their urgency and the assessment may change if the patient’s condition changes.

Some of the patients have already been examined earlier and they are called back in to discuss test results.

Do children take priority over adults?

All patients are treated in the order of urgency, so adult patients with conditions that require immediate attention will take priority over children with lesser symptoms.

However, the aim is always to examine and treat children as quickly as possible.

Why was there a long gap when the doctor was not seeing anyone?

Each illness and injury takes a different amount of time to examine and treat. Elderly patients and patients with multiple or critical issues may take up a significant amount of a doctor’s time. Doctors also have to keep on top of administrative tasks, such as entering patient data into the system, ordering tests and writing referrals and prescriptions. Sometimes they need to consult another doctor.

Doctors are often attending to patients waiting in the waiting area as well as patients in the monitoring room, so sometimes the doctor may not be calling in patients for a long time.

Can I refuse certain procedures in the emergency department?

As a patient, you always have the right to decide if you want to undergo a procedure or not. This means you can refuse to have treatment or certain elements of treatment or a procedure. If you wish to decline treatment or a procedure, the doctor will try and find an alternative, medically acceptable method of treating your illness or injury. Refusing treatment or a procedure may make it more difficult for the doctor to arrive at a diagnosis and to treat your illness or injury.

The right to decide on your treatment does not mean you have the right to request any treatment you wish, and all treatments are ordered by doctors based on their professional expertise and collaboration with the patient.

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Updated  1.5.2021