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Welcome to UCI Medical Center’s Emergency Department. Since you are probably here for an illness affecting yourself or a family member, we know this may be a stressful time. We want to care for you and your loved ones and will do our best to make you feel better. This pamphlet will answer some of your questions about emergency care and tell you what to expect during your visit with us today.
UCI Medical Center (UCIMC) is the only Level I Trauma Center and Burn Center in Orange County, meaning it treats the county’s most severely injured people. Doctors specializing in every medical field, with access to state-of-the-art medical equipment, practice within the Medical Center.
The Emergency Department at UCIMC sees approximately 120 patients each day and provides medical care 24 hours a day, every day of the year. There is a Chest Pain Unit within the Emergency Department to help the staff determine if you are having a heart problem.
Commonly Asked Questions
• Where should I park?
Thirty-minute parking is available at the end of the building next to the ambulance ramp. Additional parking is located across from the ramp next to the parking structure. As soon as you arrive in the Emergency Department Waiting Room, ask the Greeter at the desk or one of the Security Officers for a Parking Permit. Once you receive it, place it on the dashboard of your car.
• What should I expect from the Emergency Department visit?
Upon entering the Waiting Room, you will be welcomed by a Greeter who will notify a Triage Nurse of your arrival. The Triage Nurse is a Registered Nurse who is specially trained to ask questions about your medical condition and determine the seriousness of your illness or injury. It is important to note that patients are seen based on their medical condition, determined from this assessment, not on their order of arrival.
Once the Triage Nurse completes the Medical Screening Exam, a Registration Clerk will obtain your personal and financial information. Upon completion of the registration process, you may be asked to be seated in the Waiting Room until a bed is available. When you go back to the Emergency Department, you will be cared for by a Registered Nurse and one or more doctors. During your visit, lab work, X-rays, and medication may be ordered to help the staff treat you.
• Is there a phone available so I can call my friends and family?
Yes. There are two pay phones in the Waiting Room. We can also bring a phone to the patient’s bedside in the Emergency Department for local calls.
• How much time will my visit take today?
This will depend upon how many patients are in the Emergency Department and how sick you are. As stated before, UCIMC is the only Level I Trauma Center and Burn Center in Orange County. While this may extend your visit with us, it will not affect the quality of care. If your care requires blood tests, X-rays and consultations with other specialists, more time may be needed. If you have commitments later in the day, ask your nurse or doctor for an estimate of your visit time. On average though, the shortest visit is 1-2 hours. The longest can be 6-8 hours if your illness is very complicated.
• What if I have to leave before being seen by a doctor?
If, for some reason, you must leave the Emergency Department before you are seen by the doctor, you must notify the nurse or clerk at the front desk. The risks of leaving include worsening of your condition, which could lead to permanent disability or death. If you have questions about your condition, and the risk of leaving, please ask the nurse or physician.
• Where can I get something to eat or drink?
If you are a patient waiting to be seen by the doctor, please see the Greeter before you eat or drink anything. The Greeter will contact one of our Registered Nurses to see if it is OK. If you are not a patient, or if the nurse says you can eat, there are two vending machines located in the Waiting Room. You also can go to the Cafeteria, which is open MondayFriday from 6:30 a.m.10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.3:30 a.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.3:30 a.m. Please see the Greeter or your nurse for directions to the Cafeteria.
• Do you have anything to help keep me and/or my kids busy while we wait?
Yes. We have two televisions in the Waiting Room. We have videos available for viewing in the Pediatric Waiting area. We also have an assortment of magazines for adolescents and adults and a variety of books, coloring books, crayons, and puzzles for children. Please see the Greeter to view one of the videos, get one of the magazines, and children’s books, crayons, and puzzles.
• Is UCI Medical Center a county hospital?
No. Orange County does not have a county hospital. UCIMC is operated by the University of California whose mission is "To provide high quality patient care in a manner that supports the education and research programs of the College of Medicine."
• Will my HMO or insurance company cover the cost of my visit today?
If you have a health care plan, they may want you to go to their preferred provider or contracted hospital. The process of deciding whether they will pay for your visit today is called authorization. We will call your plan to let them know why you are here. Your plan may authorize or deny payment for the visit. If your health care plan does not authorize your visit, we will still see you in our Emergency Department and provide emergency care, but your plan may not pay the bill.
• I do not have money or medical insurance. Can I still be seen for my problem?
Absolutely yes. Every Emergency Department is required by law to treat all patients who come for emergency care. The Registration staff can answer any questions you have about how to pay for your treatment today.
• I do not speak English. Does UCI Medical Center have interpreters?
Yes. UCIMC has Spanish interpreters 24 hours a day and has Vietnamese interpreters on weekdays. Our interpreters try to be in the Emergency Department for our patients. However, they may not always be available right away. We recommend that if you cannot speak English, bring a friend or family member who does.
• I am not in the United States legally. Will I be reported?
No. By law, we must treat all emergency or life-threatening problems. We do not discourage anyone from coming to the Emergency Department for fear of resident status.
• Everyone asks me for the same information. Don’t you talk to each other?
There are many people caring for you today. Each person has a different job and need for information. We want to provide you with the best care possible, and asking questions is the best way for us to find out how to help you. It may seem repetitive, but we do not want to miss anything.
• What questions will the staff ask me?
We will ask you many questions to find out why you are here and how we can best help you. We will ask you what medical problems you know about (high blood pressure, arthritis, or asthma, etc.) and what operations you have had (appendectomy, gallbladder removal, etc.). We will also ask what medication(s) you are taking and if you have ever had any bad reactions to any medication. Please bring your medication(s) with you to the Emergency Department.
• Will my regular doctor be called today?
If you have a doctor in the UCIMC family of doctors, we will call him or her. We do this to discuss your treatment with the doctor who knows you best. If you have another doctor you would like us to call, please let the Emergency Department staff know right away.
• Why will I be asked to take off part, or all, of my clothing and put on a gown after going into the Emergency Department?
It is very important for the doctors and nurses to be able to conduct a thorough examination. Once you have removed your clothing, please place it into a white Patient Belongings bag to help keep it all together. A staff member will provide you with a label to place on your Belongings bag. We encourage you to give your valuables (wallet, watches, jewelry, etc.) to a family member for safekeeping. Please note, in an emergency, your clothing may have to be cut off in order to evaluate you appropriately.
• My doctor said he/she is an Intern or Resident. What does this mean?
Interns and Residents are medical doctors who have finished medical school and are learning their specialty, including Emergency Medicine. At UCIMC, part of our mission is to train young doctors. These doctors are a very important part of your care. While you may talk mostly with an Intern or Resident during your Emergency Department visit, your care is always discussed with an Attending Emergency Physician (Chief Emergency Physician) before we treat you or order any tests. Before you leave the Emergency Department, you will be seen by the Attending Emergency Physician.
• Can I have visitors while in the Emergency Department?
Usually. One visitor can stay with you if we are not doing tests at that time. In fact, it is important that an adult stay with a child who is treated in the Emergency Department. We try to keep visitors to one per patient because we have limited space. Limiting the number of people in the Emergency Department also helps us protect our patients’ privacy and gives the staff enough space to perform their duties quickly. When the Emergency Department is busy, or if we have to perform a procedure, we may ask the visitors to wait in the Waiting Room.
• How can visitors come see me while I am in the Emergency Department?
For your safety and the safety of our other patients and staff, access to the Emergency Department is strictly regulated. Your visitors can check in with the Greeter in the Waiting Room. The Greeter will then talk with your nurse and ask him/her to let you know they are here. Depending on your treatment and how busy the Emergency Department is, your nurse will determine when it is best for your visitors to visit with you. Once granted permission to enter the Emergency Department, all visitors must use the main entrance since all other entryways are securely locked.
• Will I need to be admitted to the hospital?
This will be determined after a thorough examination by one of our doctors. Patients admitted to the hospital need tests or treatments not done in the Emergency Department. Examples are infections needing IV antibiotics or patients who might have had a heart attack or need surgery. Most patients seen in the Emergency Department do not need to be admitted to the hospital.
• If my doctor tells me I should have a test, do I have to have it done?
All tests requested by the Emergency doctors are used to find out what is wrong with you and how best we can treat your illness. Please ask your doctor to tell you why we are recommending a test and explain the risks and benefits to you. You may refuse any treatment or test. However, if you do, we may not be able to decide what is wrong with you. Occasionally, some patients may be too sick to make decisions about their treatment. When this happens, we do the tests we think will help these patients.
• My doctor told me he/she does not know what is wrong with me after my treatment. What does this mean?
In the Emergency Department, our first goal is to treat life-threatening illness and pain. We do not do many tests for illnesses that are not emergencies and may not be able to tell you why you feel sick today. This does not mean we think there is nothing wrong with you. Instead, we have determined that your illness is not life-threatening or requiring hospitalization. Your illness may need more tests and long-term care than we are able to provide in the Emergency Department. It is important that you go to your doctor or clinic appointment after leaving the Emergency Department so they may continue to treat you. When you leave, we will give you clinic phone numbers to make an appointment.
We, in the Emergency Department, will do our best to make your wait as short as possible. We truly appreciate you choosing UCIMC as your health care provider. Your well-being is important to us. Please feel free to ask questions or offer suggestions on how we can make your visit to our Emergency Department more pleasant. During your visit, you will receive a Patient Satisfaction Feedback form. We would appreciate it if you would take a few minutes during your visit and complete the form giving us your opinion about your visit. Thank you.
Source: University of California-Irvine Medical Center, Orange.