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Navigating Emergency Department Wait Times

Every year about this time, WakeMed sees an increase in patients complaining of flulike symptoms as a primary reason for visits to our emergency departments

If you have flu-like symptoms or a gastrointestinal illness, the first thing to do is consult your primary care physician.  As your primary medical care provider, no one knows your health history better.  If you do not have a primary care physician, WakeMed Physician Practices primary care (family and internal medicine) offices around Wake County are accepting new patients.

If your primary care physician is not available, evaluate whether or not you are having a medical emergency.  If it is a medical emergency, please proceed directly to your closest emergency department.  If it is not a medical emergency, consider seeking care in an urgent care office such as Accent Urgent Care with locations in Raleigh and Cary.

If you are unsure whether or not you are having a medical emergency, The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers a list of warning signs that indicate a medical emergency.  These warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Any sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual abdominal pain

If you do need to seek care in an emergency department and have time, it is a good idea to check  wait times across our emergency departments.  These times are updated automatically every 30 minutes on our web site and mobile app. 

Please note, however, the wait times are just guidelines.  Patients are seen in the emergency department based on the severity of their illness.  If you are having a time-sensitive emergency like a heart attack, stroke, trauma or other life-threatening illness, you will be seen quickly, so please proceed to your closest emergency department or, better yet, call 9-1-1.