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Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time, it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

Sydney J. Harris

A & E Guide
What to expect at the Accident and Emergency Room

When you arrive at the hospital

If you arrived by ambulance, you will normally be taken straight to the treatment area. If you walk in, you will first need to give your details to the receptionist. If you printed off the checklist then give it to the receptionist who can give it to the triage nurse. If you do not have the form, you will be asked some basic questions concerning your address and personal details, you may also be asked about the nature of your injury. You do not need to give details, just be brief, eg. A wound or a burn. You will then be asked to wait in the waiting room. 

The first person who you are likely to see will be the triage nurse. Triage is just used to put the patients in order depending on their clinical urgency (how sick they are). The nurse will probably ask you some more questions regarding your problem; try to be as honest as you can at this stage. Don't try and hide how you are feeling or how bad your wounds are, as this means you could end up waiting longer. The nurse may also ask about your feelings regarding suicide and other mood related questions. The nurse may also record your blood pressure, pulse and temperature as well as asking about any previous medical problems and any medications you take. In addition to this, the nurse may ask to briefly see you injury.

After you have spoken to the triage nurse, you may be asked to wait in the waiting room again. The hard part is sitting and waiting. At time the emergency department may be very busy and it may seem like you have waited a long time. However, try to persevere as you will be seen. If you have bought a friend with you, and they are up to it and it is OK with the hospital you can ask them to come back into the treatment area with you.


When its time for your treatment, you will probably be taken to places that are referred to as "Cubicles" or "Treatment Areas". These are fairly small areas which are separated from he next area by either a wall or a curtain. This is to ensure your privacy. There will be a bed in each area and often other equipment such as bright lighting or machines. Depending what needs to be treated, you maybe asked to remove some items of clothing, if you are, you will be given a hospital gown. Some forms of treatment may include putting little sticky pads onto your chest which connect to a machine that monitors your heart (EKG). If these are needed you will often be given a gown to wear on your top half.

A member of the medical team will come in and go over what you told the triage nurse, they will then examine you/your wound more closely. Treatment will depend upon the reason why you are in there. Generally, for wounds it will involve cleaning the wound and then giving the appropriate treatment. That may involve stitches, steri-strips or dressings. For overdoses you may have a ECG (a picture of the electricity in your heart) done, you may also have blood tests to determine if there is any damage. Treatment from there will depend upon the results of the blood test. Treatment may take a long time so try to be patient with the staff. It might be an idea to print off some deep breathing techniques Link to do if you feel yourself getting stressed.

Often times when receiving treatment someone will not be in the room with you the whole time, once the nurse has assessed you she will leave until the doctor comes in. After the doctor assesses you the nurse may come back in to do the actual treatment the doctor ordered, such as dressing your wounds, or giving you medications. Most people will introduce themselves to you, but if you aren't sure who someone is, ask them, they won't mind. 

Awareness has been raised about self injury recently and as a result a lot of staff are better informed. However, if you feel that you are being treated roughly (stitches without anesthetic, rough cleaning, rude remarks) then it is perfectly ok to ask to see someone else. It might also be an idea to take a copy of the self harmer's bill of rights with you. You could give this to the hospital worker.

Once you have been treated 
It is very important to get detailed, specific instructions of how to take care of yourself after leaving the hospital. This may include wound care instructions, information about when and where to get sutures removed, follow up blood tests and how to take any medication you are given. Depending upon the hospital and how you are feeling, you maybe asked to speak to a psych or social worker before you leave the hospital. 

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