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image of CHEO's emergency department entrance with text "visiting emergency"

What to Expect


image of a triage unitUpon your arrival in the emergency department, you will be welcomed by a triage nurse, whose responsibility is to prioritize care for patients. The emergency department does not function on a first come first serve basis. Policy is that the sickest patients are seen first. Triage is a dynamic process.

The process of triage is one of sorting and involves the assessment of patients through a brief interview to obtain a history, and perform a brief physical assessment. The Pediatric Assessment Triage includes assessment of the child/youth’s appearance, work of breathing, circulation and mental health status.

Triaging involves communication with patients/families regarding priority of care and treatment, notifying patients of potential delays, reassessing waiting patients, and instructing patients and families to notify the triage nurse if there is any change in the child/youth’s condition. It is important to note that waiting times will vary and the staff is not able to provide you with a time frame of how long you will wait as there are many variables that may occur without advanced warning. Please appreciate that they continuously evaluate the status of patients and availability of staff and always try to provide the best and earlier care possible.

Reference: Canadian Pediatric Triangle and Acuity Scale, Implementation Guidelines for Emergency Departments, Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, October 2001. Vol. 3 No. 4


After triage, you usually go to the registration area. The clerk will ask you questions, such as your address, your telephone number and the name of your family physician.. It is important to give complete information. You will be asked for your Ontario or Quebec health insurance card, or other health insurance information if you are visiting from another jurisdiction.

Waiting Room

You will be asked to wait in the waiting room if an exam room is not available. The triage nurse may recommend that you not to give your child anything to eat or drink while waiting, if it is believed some specific tests will be involved. Please follow these instructions.

The length of time your child’s wait depends on several factors, including the significance of the illness or injury, availability of medical and nursing staff, availability of treatment room, and acuity and/or volume of patients in the department.

There are several areas where you may be directed to wait, including the main waiting room, an acute care treatment room, an isolation room, and the “AZ” waiting zone.

Usually, the ED is busiest during the evening hours. Please be aware that even though the department might appear quiet, there could be very sick children being cared for in acute care rooms.

CHEO has been making great progress reducing its wait times to some of the best in the province.

AZ zone (Ambulatory Zone)

This is a special area for those patients who are less sick or with minor injuries. By separating the less sick from the more sick, CHEO is able to see all patients more quickly than ever before. The AZ Zone is staffed by emergency physicians, nurse practitioners and registered nurses. image of a hospital bed at CHEO

Exam Room  

As soon as possible, you and your child will be brought to an exam room where a team of doctors and nurses will care for your child.   If your child needs blood tests, x-rays or other tests, it may take an hour or more to get the results. Please be patient. You may be asked to return to the waiting room during this time.

A parent or guardian must stay with his or her child at all times.

Going Home

If needed, you’ll be given printed instructions once your child is ready to leave. These instructions have information on how to care for your child's illness or injury and will tell you about follow-up care. We send a copy of the record from the visit to your child's primary care provider to explain to the provider what was done for your child and what was recommended.

We ask that you do not call the Emergency Department for your child’s test results. CHEO has specially trained nurses who will follow up with you if it is required for such items as:

  • Abnormal laboratory results
  • Some x-ray reports,
  • And other follow ups with specialty clinics both within and outside of CHEO.
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