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What to Expect at the ED

Make your trip to a Cone Health emergency department go as smoothly as possible by learning what to expect during and after your visit.

Share Your Feedback

After visiting the emergency department, you may receive a satisfaction survey. If you choose to complete the survey, you help us improve our service to you and your neighbors. You also may contact us online to share a compliment or concern.

When You Arrive

As soon as you come to a Cone Health emergency department, a nurse will ask about your symptoms and determine the severity of your medical condition. Emergency department staff may order imaging or lab tests to diagnose your condition.

This process, called triage, helps ensure that patients with the most serious health concerns get care first. You’ll receive care as soon as you need it, but someone with a more urgent injury or illness may go to a treatment area before you.


During registration, you share information for your medical record and give staff permission to treat you. Bring your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid card to the emergency department whenever possible.

Communication With Care Providers

Tell your emergency care providers about your medications, allergies and medical history. If your symptoms change at any time during your visit, let staff know right away.

You may notice staffers using computers to look up your medical record, view images from radiology tests and request other health information that helps you get the best care.

Pain Management & Comfort

Your care team wants you to be comfortable, but a doctor may need to see you before you can safely receive pain medication.

If you’re cold, feel free to ask a nurse for blankets.

Length of Your Visit

Expect to spend four to six hours, on average, in the emergency department. The length of your visit depends on your condition, tests needed and the number of patients with critical injuries or illnesses. The fewest patients visit the emergency department between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., a time period when you may experience shorter waits.

If your health concern isn’t life-threatening, consider urgent care—a faster, more affordable alternative for everyday conditions.


Two family members or friends may join you in the treatment room at your nurse’s and physician’s discretion. To protect your privacy, you must approve visitors’ or loved ones’ requests to receive your health information from staff.

Transfer & Referral

Cone Health likely can provide all the emergency services you need. But we’ll work with you and your family to transfer or refer you to another facility if you’d benefit from additional medical care.


You may notice the name Wake Forest University Department of Emergency Medicine on the bill you receive in the mail after your visit. This institution provides the doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who serve you at Cone Health emergency departments.

You’ll get a separate bill for any radiology or lab tests you receive.

Emergency Department Locations