When a patient first arrives in the emergency room - now typically called the Emergency Department - the first stop is triage. In triage, a nurse typically prioritizes each patient's condition into one of three general categories:
- Immediately life threatening
- Urgent, but not necessarily immediately life threatening
- Less urgent
Categorization is necessary to ensure someone with a life-threatening condition is not left waiting just because he or she arrived a few minutes later than someone with a less severe problem. A triage nurse will record a patient?s vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and blood pressure). The nurse also will get a brief history of a patient?s medical complaints, medical history, medications and allergies. She will use this information to determine the patient's appropriate triage category.
After triage, the next stop for a patient will be registration. It is not very exciting and rarely seen on TV. Nonetheless, during registration, patients provide insurance information, Medicare, Medicaid or HMO card. This is a necessary step and helps to develop a medical record so the medical history, lab tests, X-rays, etc., will be located on one chart and can be referenced at any time. The bill, of course, also will be generated from this information.
If a patient's condition is life-threatening or if a patient arrives by ambulance, registration may be completed later at the bedside.