Emergency and Trauma Care

How Long Will I Wait?

While places like banks or restaurants work on a “first come, first served” basis, emergency departments do not.  Instead, patients are seen by a Triage Nurse shortly after they arrive.  This Registered Nurse (RN) quickly sees the patient to understand their symptoms, take vital signs and get a sense of how sick they are.  Patients are then seen in order from sickest to healthiest, with sicker patients constantly being shifted higher on the list.

In other words, the healthier you are, the longer you will wait.  

Even once you arrive, it is very difficult for staff to estimate how long you will wait, as they can’t predict how many patients will arrive in that time or how sick they will be.  Sometimes it feels like no one is being called back, but that is often because critical patients have come in by ambulance or helicopter are brought in through a separate entrance and not seen by patients in the waiting area.

Everyone will be seen as soon as possible, but there is no telling how long that will be. However, if your condition worsens or your symptoms change while you are waiting, you should notify staff immediately.

We understand no one wants to wait for care, especially when you are feeling sick or in pain.  That is why we encourage people to be sure they are in the right place for the care they need.  Primary Care Providers and Urgent Care Clinics can see many patients who come to the emergency room, and often at a much lower cost. 

For more information on what problems can be treated in a primary care or urgent care setting and what should always come to the emergency room for care, please see this guide.

As Riverside Regional Medical Center is a much larger facility than Riverside’s other hospitals, the emergency department is much larger and much busier, which means the patient flow is slightly different in order to accommodate all of the patients and see them as quickly and safely as possible.  Patients are still triaged and seen in order of sickest to healthiest, and this video helps explain what to expect at that facility.