Going to emergency

If you are seriously hurt or sick, you can go to a hospital emergency department for urgent treatment. Emergency departments are in many public hospitals across NSW and open 24 hours a day. To find your nearest emergency department, visit Emergency Department waiting times.

Emergency medicine doctors and nurses specialise in treating patients who are suffering from a serious illness or injury that could get worse if not treated quickly. While emergency departments are open 24 hours a day and don’t require an appointment, minor illnesses or injuries are best treated by your local doctor or medical centre.

What happens in emergency?

Hospital emergency departments will never turn away people with serious or life-threatening illness or injuries.


The first person you will see in emergency is the triage nurse (pronounced tree-arj). The triage nurse will ask for your personal/family and contact details and your Medicare card.

The triage nurse will assess your condition and sort out the priority of your care soon after your arrival. If your condition is very urgent you will be seen by a doctor sooner than if your condition is less urgent. The triage nurse may even commence your care.

Even if your doctor refers you to emergency, the triage nurse will still have to work out how urgent your condition is. Your local doctor will not be aware of the other patients who are already there or waiting for treatment.

  • If your condition gets worse while you are waiting, tell the triage nurse immediately.
  • If you think your condition can be treated by your local doctor, ask the triage nurse for advice.
  • If you decide not to wait, tell the triage nurse.

For more information on triage, see Hospital triage.


Severely ill or injured patients are always treated as soon as possible.

If you need more hospital care, the doctor may have you admitted into the hospital. If this happens, you will be taken to a hospital ward when a bed is available. If the emergency demand increases suddenly, you may have to wait some time for a ward bed. However, while you are waiting to go to the ward you will still be receiving care by the emergency department.

Alternatively, you may be transferred by ambulance to another hospital that has a more appropriate range of services available to treat your condition.

From January-March 2017, more than 190,000 people were admitted to a ward bed, intensive care unit or operating theatre after being seen in an emergency department.

For more information about what you can expect from your time in hospital or if you have any concerns about your treatment, see Patient care, treatment and concerns.

What happens after emergency?

A doctor or nurse will let you know if and when you are ready to go. They will also let you know what is happening with your care or treatment, so don't hesitate to ask questions if you don't understand what's happening.

Before you leave emergency, you may be asked to see your family doctor to make sure everything is okay. If you have had stitches, or a plaster or cast put on, you will be told how long they are to remain in place.

If you are discharged and able to go home, make sure that you:

  • understand your treatment and any medications you need to take
  • know when you need to see a doctor again
  • ask about a medical certificate and/or a letter for your doctor.

For more information see Going home from hospital.​​​

Current as at: Tuesday 24 October 2017
Contact page owner: System Purchasing