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Expect the Unexpected: What You’ll Experience Inside the Jefferson Emergency Room

During an emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is who is treating your condition, injury or illness.

During the height of the pandemic last year, the Emergency Department at Jefferson was overflowing, and staff, providers and patients were overwhelmed. In November 2021, the emergency providers made the decision to switch up the process.

For patients, this process is a good surprise. We spoke with emergency medicine physician Dr. Jennifer White, medical director of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (TJUH) Emergency Department, on various providers patients may encounter during an ER visit and what they can expect.

At the Front Door

In most emergency departments, patients will be met by a triage nurse and will wait for their turn to be seen by a doctor. However, at TJUH, things work a little differently. In addition to triage nurses, the front doors of the Emergency Department are manned by a core group of experienced attending doctors.

“We wanted to put our most experienced doctors at the front door,” says Dr. White. “These doctors can assess each patient’s condition accurately and immediately and screen patients for subtle signs of more serious conditions, like a stroke or a heart attack, so they do not have to wait for necessary care.”

The Waiting Room

After a brief evaluation, the intake doctor can order blood work, X-rays and other testing, if needed, or can discharge the patient without a waiting period. If the patient needs further care, the intake doctor will assign them to one of several areas of the emergency department with teams waiting for them. If a patient needs the care of a specialist, or needs immediate intervention or medication, that specialist is consulted at the door and the evaluation is expedited.

If all areas of the hospital are full, patients with the most serious conditions in the waiting room are ushered to a separate internal waiting room and are “next up” for a hospital bed.

By the time a patient arrives in their hospital room, the patient will have already been seen by an intake doctor, a nurse and a nurse technician. By that point, their assigned team of intake doctors will review orders and start working on a treatment plan.

A New Process and its Impact

With this new process, TJUH’s clinical team has seen much success. They can treat more patients quickly, and fewer patients are leaving without being seen.

“I want patients to understand that while our emergency department looks chaotic, it’s organized chaos,” says Dr. White. “Things will happen fast, but our team of nurses, nurse technicians and doctors knows where every patient is in their process. The collaboration between our doctors, specialists and nursing is outstanding, and patients can sense and feel that during their experience. We are truly a team.”

[Editor’s Note: Ever wonder why ER wait times can be so long? We have that answer and more here.]

[Main photo credit: ©2017 Ed Cunicelli Photographer]

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