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When to Go to the ER


The emergency room, or ER, is a hospital service where people can seek immediate help for serious injuries or illnesses that can’t be managed or treated at home, in a doctor’s office, or at an urgent care facility. 

Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Bay Area ER for these signs and symptoms of emergency conditions:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or being short of breath
  • Injury to your back or neck with altered sensation or inability to move your arms or legs
  • Pain or swelling in the arms or legs after a fall or other type of accident involving impact
  • Seizures
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the lips and tongue
  • Sudden inability to speak or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden onset of weakness on one side of your body

At Dignity Health, emergency care is available at all hours of the day and night at the following hospitals:

You can trust our expert emergency team when you need to go to the ER in the Bay Area. Spend less time in the waiting room by using our Online Waiting Room to select your estimated arrival time to one of our ERs.

Reasons for Going to the ER

Some people are unsure of when they should go to an urgent care clinic or to an emergency room. Some examples of conditions that should be treated in an ER include:

  • Broken bones
  • Heart attack
  • Injuries that could result in death or disability, such as a brain or spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Suspected or actual poisoning

What to Expect at a Dignity Health Emergency Room

When you arrive in a Dignity Health ER, your first encounter will likely be with a triage nurse to assess the urgency of your condition. This nurse will take your information and ask questions about your symptoms. The ER cares for the sickest and most severely injured people first. If the nurse asks you to wait, let the nurse know if your symptoms or condition get worse. 

Once you are seen by the ER doctor, they may need to run more tests to determine your needs. You may have:

Depending on your condition, the ER doctor may consult with other specialists in the hospital or by phone. Following your ER assessment, tests, and treatment, your care team may send you home with instructions for care and prescriptions, if necessary. You may need a follow-up appointment with your primary care doctor or specialist for further treatment. If your condition is more serious, you may be admitted to the hospital for observation or treatment, including emergency surgery.

Dignity Health provides fast and efficient emergency care when you need to go to the ER in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.