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Barton Health

Understanding Emergency Medicine

It’s the rush to solve an important mystery: What does the patient seek medical care for? What steps are needed for a diagnosis?

It’s the urgency to help someone in need: How can I best help this patient? Does this patient need a life-saving intervention? Will this person need to stay overnight or can this person be released and go home?

This rush and race to help a patient are reasons I love being an emergency medicine physician. I know for a patient, the Emergency Department can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t been there before or understand what is going on behind the scenes. Here is a glimpse at how the department works and what you can expect if the unexpected occurs to you or a loved one.

Urgent Care vs. Emergency Department Visit

Knowing where to go in a health emergency will help you get the best treatment possible. Urgent Care offers some of the same services as the Emergency Room, such as X-rays and blood testing. However, Urgent Care does not treat life-threatening conditions. If you need treatment right away for a less serious issue, an urgent care center may be your best bet.

Some less severe problems appropriate for Urgent Care services, include:

  • Sinus or ear infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Minor cuts and burns
  • Sprains and broken bones
  • Fever and sore throat

Barton Urgent Care, www.bartonhealth.org/urgentcare, is located at 155 Highway 50 in Stateline, Nevada. Call Urgent Care at (775) 589-8900 if you are unsure if urgent care or emergency services is right for you.

Specialized Care

Emergency physicians are trained to give patients rapid evaluation and diagnosis under pressure. A newer medical specialty, it has only been developed and fine-tuned for the last 35 years.

Before 1979, an emergency “room” was staffed with interns, residents, and medical staff willing to take the shifts. Today, Emergency Medicine entails rigorous standardized training and knowledge across the medical field. Physicians who staff the Barton Emergency Department have completed specialty residency training and are board-certified in Emergency Medicine. Barton nurses and technicians are trained and certified by their respective boards. This allows our entire team to continuously care for critical patients calmly, compassionately, quickly and efficiently.

Are you ready for an Emergency?

Emergency Physicians are prepared to help you when you need it. But here are a few things you can put together to prepare for a medical emergency in advance:

  • A list of any medication or herbal supplements you’re taking, including the dose
  • A list of medications you are allergic to
  • Your family medical history
  • If you have heart problems, a copy of your last EKG

Remember to bring these items with you when you head to the hospital!

Worst First

Emergency physicians rapidly assess each patient and provide life-saving measures for any emergency scenario. For a potentially life-threatening problem, such as chest pain, treat is immediate. Otherwise, a specially trained emergency nurse evaluates the seriousness of your condition. This nurse checks vital signs and asks about symptoms and medical history. This process, called triage, helps ensure the most critical patients are seen first.

The goal is to help every emergency patient as quickly as possible, but it does mean some patients have to wait. Sometimes care will be interrupted or temporarily delayed if the team must break away to attend to a more critical patient. During busy times, the Barton Emergency Department calls in back-up physicians and nurses for assistance.

Time and Tests

When your name is called, a physician completes a screening exam and begins tests or treatment. While you wait, a physician orders tests, follows up on these tests, interprets results, and formulates a plan. For example, chest pain could be caused by over fifty different things. Sometimes the emergency physician calls in another specialist, such as a cardiologist for heart troubles, to help coordinate and continue the treatment plan.

Can You Avoid an Emergency?

In the past year, the reasons patients visited Barton’s Emergency Department is consistent. Breaking it down, every month showed the top four reasons were the same: cough, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and fever. Traumatic injuries - incidents related to sports and recreation, assault, falls, and motor vehicle accidents - accounted for 31% of all emergency visits and 10% of all patients came in by ambulance.

Snapshot Assessment

In most cases, an emergency physician only gets to see you this one visit. Though Barton’s electronic medical record system helps provide a detailed medical history for patients that have seen by other Barton providers, an emergency physician is not your primary care provider. We do not have a long-term relationship with you. As an emergency physician, I only have this snapshot assessment to make a diagnosis and rule out other life-threatening ailments.

In some cases, you may not get an exact diagnosis during your emergency visit. If a physician can’t rule out a diagnosis, you may be given the diagnosis “it could be.” In other cases, you may have to return for more tests or follow-up care. Emergency medicine is challenging and complex. At Barton Memorial Hospital, we are fortunate to have a team of experts to take care of our community and visitors when you need it.

Want to Know More?

Dr. Targhee Oeveraas is an Emergency Physician at Barton Memorial Hospital. To learn more about Barton's Emergency Department, go to www.bartonhealth.org/ed.