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What to Expect

Emergency DepartmentArrival

  • When you come to the Emergency Department (ED), your child will be seen by a nurse who will ask about symptoms and make a quick assessment.
  • This evaluation, called Triage, helps us know if there are immediate needs and the order in which your child will be seen.
  • Next, a staff member will take your child’s vital signs and weight if a triage room is open.
  • A nurse may give your child medications for fever or pain at this time.
  • Also you may be asked to give your child something to drink or you may be asked not to give your child anything to eat or drink depending on your child’s symptoms.
  • After the triage process, your child may be taken to an exam room. If no exam room is open, you will wait in the reception area.
  • The triage nurse will tell you your triage status.
  • An electronic monitor in the main reception area will show the estimated waiting time for that triage level.
  • If you need an interpreter, please tell the triage nurse.

Why the wait?

  • If your child has a severe medical problem, the doctors and nurses will provide the attention and care that is needed right away.
  • Children with the most severe illnesses and injuries are seen first.
  • It is possible that if your child has a minor injury or illness, there may be a waiting period.
  • Even if the reception area is empty, there may not be available examination rooms or the doctors and nurses may be caring for a critically ill child.

Treatment room

  • One or more Emergency Department doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses may treat your child.
  • A primary doctor or nurse practitioner and nurse will be assigned to your child’s care.
  • Once inside the room, please remove your child’s clothing and dress your child in the gown provided.
  • Due to the small space, only two family members are allowed in the room at any one time along with the patient.

Additional tests

The doctor may order tests for your child. X-rays and lab work are the most common. A staff member will explain other tests that may be needed.


  • You may go to the xray room with your child.
  • If you think you may be pregnant, you will wait just outside the xray room.
  • Results usually take about 90 minutes depending on the x-ray test ordered.

Lab work

  • If your child needs blood taken for lab work, you may stay to comfort him or her.
  • An hour or longer may be needed to get the test results back. A doctor will talk with you about the results.

Do not give your child anything to eat or drink until a nurse or physician have told you it is alright for him or her to eat and drink

RegistrationED waiting area

  • A “quick” registration takes place when you first get to the ED. This allows tests and treatment to begin without delay.
  • Complete registration occurs during the care process, for example while waiting for test results or waiting to be seen by the practitioner or physician.
  • We will get personal and insurance information during the complete registration process.
  • Copayments are collected in the treatment room, after you have been seen by the doctor.
  • We will be able to answer most of your questions about insurance or billing. Financial counselors can help if needed.
  • During registration you will be given a paper copy of the Patient/Parent Bill of Rights. This tells you what you should expect during your stay at Children’s of Alabama with regard to your rights and responsibilities.