Navigating the Unexpected: An Emergency Visit to Valley Medical Center
Valley Medical Center operates the most comprehensive emergency facility in south King County. VMC's Emergency Department (ED) is a Level III Trauma Center and one of the busiest EDs in Washington State.
Directions to our Emergency Department
Learn about our Emergency Department
Trauma centers are hospital emergency departments where trauma patients are taken for treatment. The U.S. Department of Health rates trauma centers based on their expertise and emergency capabilities. Designated trauma centers are required to participate in yearly trauma training programs to ensure quality patient care.
Highly trained doctors and nurses specializing in emergency medicine are available 24 hours a day. If needed, specialists are on call around the clock for emergency consultation, special procedures, or surgery.
Every effort is made to treat patients as quickly as possible upon arriving at VMC's ED. Here is what you can expect when you visit:
When you arrive, you will check in with registration and our greeter, who is a medical-surgical technician. They will sign you in and escort you to triage. Triage is the French word for "to sort." Patients are treated by the level of their injury or illness, not on a first-come, first-served basis. The triage nurse determines who should be seen in what order. Emergent patients, the most serious, are seen immediately—a person experiencing a heart attack, for example. Non-urgent patients may be directed to Flex Care where our goal is to get you in and out as quickly as possible.
The Care Process and What to Expect When You Arrive in Your Treatment Room
Once you arrive in your treatment room, a primary care nurse is assigned to you. The nurse will coordinate your care with other patient care providers, such as the emergency physician and medical-surgical technicians. If you have questions or concerns, your primary care nurse is the person to ask.
Waiting During the Treatment Process
Understandably, the number one frustration with an emergency visit to the hospital is waiting. VMC's ED may not appear busy to those waiting in the lobby, but there is a separate entrance for patients who arrive by ambulance. So, while you are waiting in the lobby, several new emergency patients may arrive. Your understanding is appreciated.
Tips for Communication
We recommend one family member or friend stay in the room with the patient. This person can keep those waiting in the lobby informed about what is going on. This allows the doctor to explain everything to the contact person once, which saves precious time and helps prevent confidential medical information from inadvertently being given to the wrong people.
Support for Special Needs
Physicians specializing in certain areas of medicine, such as orthopedics, surgery and neurology, are on call 24 hours for specific procedures. Counselors on VMC's Emergency Room Intervention Team (ERIT) are also available at certain times to help patients and family members cope with serious crises, mental health issues, and to provide information on additional community resources. Knowing what to expect before making that unexpected trip to VMC's ED can help you get through your visit with more confidence and less anxiety. Rest assured: it is our goal to give you the very best in emergency care.
When treating minors, who are considered unmarried persons under age 18, we are required by law to have permission from the parent or guardian before providing care. The law cites two exceptions: those minors seeking psychiatry care or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases/reproductive issues. For all other services, if a parent or legal guardian does not accompany a minor, we will call for consent. In extreme emergencies, medical treatment may be initiated without parental consent.
It is best to be fully prepared for an emergency situation in case of your absence from your child. This can be done by filling out a Consent to Treatment of Minor Children form.
Understanding Payment for Emergency Services at Valley Medical Center
Emergency care is available to everyone regardless of your ability to pay. However, the Emergency Department should never be a substitute for a personal physician or primary care provider. If you are in need of a primary care physician, please click here to find a Valley Medical Center physician who best matches your healthcare needs.
Your hospital bill for emergency services at Valley Medical Center will include a charge for your emergency visit, which will depend on the complexity of your treatment. Additional charges for medications, tests, and any special procedures may also appear on your bill. You can expect to receive a separate bill if you received services from an emergency physician or a radiologist (for X-rays or other imaging services).
As a courtesy, the hospital can bill your insurance company or Medicare for your emergency care. You are encouraged to check your insurance policy regarding payment for any emergency visits to a hospital. Financial counselors are available in VMC's Business Services department to answer any questions you may have regarding your emergency visit charges. If you require financial assistance, the counselors can also explain what financial assistance programs are available.
Additional Helpful Information
Smoking is not allowed in any area on the Valley Medical Center campus.
Parking is free for patients and their guests; When parking in the South Tower garage, please have your parking stubb validated at the security desk in the Emergency Room lobby. Please do not park in the area designated for ambulance and medic entry. In the interest of public safety, vehicles parked in this area will be towed.
Interpreter services for non-English speaking patients and services for the hearing-impaired are gladly provided. Please inform the triage nurse if you or a family member is in need of these services.
Important Phone Numbers
Valley Medical Center Emergency Services: 425.251.5185
Emergency Services Director: 425.228.3440, ext. 8188
Crisis Counselors: 425.228.3440, ext. 8990
Financial Services Counselor: 425.228.3440, ext. 4957
Bike Helmet Safety Program Information: 425.656.5577
Valley Medical Center Physician Referral: 425.656.INFO, option 1