What to Expect During a Visit to the ER During a Pandemic

March 17, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Dominic Ruocco, M.D. contributes to topics such as Emergency Medicine.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives dramatically, so changes are in place designed to make your visit to the ER safe and secure. Here are five of the changes you might notice.

  1. Mandatory masks. You and everyone else in the Emergency Room are required to wear a mask. Staff will wear surgical masks and eye protection, and might also wear N95 masks, face shields, gowns or gloves. “That’s one of the biggest changes patients will see that they would have not seen prior to this pandemic because it was not required for staff,” says Dominic Ruocco, M.D., chairman of emergency care at Palisades Medical Center.
  2. Social distancing. Social-distancing policies are in effect. This means there might be directional arrows in places to organize the flow of traffic and some seats will be blocked off to ensure space between people. “If you were to walk into our cafeteria, you’ll note all of the seats are at least 6 feet from each other and every table has only one seat. And while you’re in that environment, naturally, you have to wear a mask,” says Dr. Ruocco.
  3. Screening process. As soon as you arrive in the ER , you’ll go through a screening process to determine if you could potentially have COVID-19. If it is determined you could, you’ll be immediately isolated and moved to a special area for at-risk patients. When arriving at the ER at Palisades, you will immediately go to the reception desk, where a registration clerk, a registered nurse and a patient care tech will greet you. You’ll be asked questions about your recent travel and symptoms, and your temperature will be taken. “If a patient is identified as a potential risk for having COVID or potentially being a silent carrier, we will move them into a segregated area of the ER in their own isolated room to minimize any risk that they could expose another patient or staff,” says Dr. Ruocco.
  4. Limited visitation. Most emergency rooms currently have visitor restrictions in place (as of winter 2021). There may be exceptions for women in labor, patients under the age of 18 or with a disability and patients at the end of life.
  5. Meticulous cleaning. Regular cleaning and disinfection has always been a focus in hospitals, but it is even more important now to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means you may see team members cleaning surfaces, especially high-touch surfaces such as seats, doors and elevator buttons. Patient rooms are cleaned thoroughly between patients. “We have a meticulous process about wiping down all patient-care surfaces and decontaminating the rooms between patients so it is a safe environment for the next patient,” says Dr. Ruocco.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.