Your guide to ER care.


It can be hard to make the right decision when something's wrong with your health.

Do you know when to go to the ER?

If you have questions about whether a health problem like stomach pain is really an emergency, our symptom checker has the answers. And our coming to the ER guide tells you what to expect. It can help you decide if you should make the decision to go to Parham Doctors’ Hospital’s ER.

If you aren’t sure whether you should come to the ER or wait for your doctor’s office to open, you can contact a nurse, 24 hours a day, by phone at (804) 320-3627.

Maps & Directions

ER Symptom Checker — When should you go?

If the sudden headache prevents you from performing daily tasks, is significantly debilitating, or is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should go to the ER:

  • High fever
  • Difficulty walking
  • Severe pain that begins suddenly
  • Neurological symptoms including weakness, numbing, slurred speech and blurred vision

Individuals with certain medical conditions may also be at serious risk. If you are experiencing any of the below conditions along with your headache, you should immediately visit the ER:

  • A headache immediately following a head injury
  • If you are taking blood thinners
  • Recent head injury or trauma

Stomach pain is the most common reason patients visit the ER. Everyone experiences stomach pain at some point. It can result from a variety of causes and occur in varying degrees of severity. So when is your pain serious enough to go to the emergency room?

You should seek immediate medical attention if your stomach pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Stomach is hard and/or tender to the touch
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to eat without nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in your chest, neck, or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath or dizziness
  • High fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dark or black stool
  • Vomit contains blood

Respiratory distress can be the result of chronic conditions like asthma or something as serious as heart failure. Signs that you should seek emergency medical treatment include:

  • Breathing stops
  • Severe shortness of breath that affects your ability to function
  • Noisy, high-pitched, and rapid wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Inability to speak comfortably and sustain voice while at rest
  • Breathing difficulties when you lie flat
  • Breathlessness that doesn’t stop after 30 minutes of rest

Or if your trouble breathing is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Back or arm pain
  • Pain or tightness in chest
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • High fever, chills, and cough

Call 911 right away if you have chest pain that is crushing or squeezing and comes with any of these symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that spreads from the chest to the neck, jaw or arms
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fast or irregular pulse
  • Signs of shock

Signs of a heart attack may show up in other ways in women, and may include:

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Discomfort in your gut
  • Discomfort in the neck, shoulder, or upper back

A concussion or any injury to the head can be very serious. If you have hit your head and have any of these symptoms, you should go to the ER:

  • Loss of consciousness, even briefly
  • Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory of the event
  • Slurred speech
  • Feeling dazed or confused
  • Worsening or severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure

Most people will experience pain in their side or abdomen at some point in their lives and it’s usually only temporary. However, severe side pain can be an indication of something serious.

If you have severe pain, especially in your lower right stomach, side, or back or if your pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the urine or pain during urination or have had a recent urinary tract infection (UTI)

Severe pain lasting only a few seconds may be nothing to worry about unless it’s reoccurring. If severe pain persists for more than a few minutes you should seek medical attention regardless of other symptoms.

Some common diagnosis may include:

  • Urological issues such as a kidney infection, kidney stones or a bladder infection
  • Appendicitis
  • Ovarian cyst

Side pain can be an indication of a number of different medical conditions. If the pain is severe, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional.

Coming to our ER - What to expect:


When you first get to the ER, a triage nurse will ask you about your symptoms and take some vital signs. Once you have seen a health care professional, a registration clerk will get information for your medical record and insurance. Whether or not you have insurance or are able to pay, you will be medically screened, evaluated and stabilized.

If you have a life-threatening illness or injury, you will be first to be treated in the ER, followed by seriously ill or unstable patients. All others will be seen in the order that they come to the ER. We strive to make your time in the waiting room as pleasant and brief as possible.

What to bring with you to the ER:

  • List of medicines you take or the actual medicines
  • List of known medical allergies
  • A copy of results from any recent medical tests
  • List of recent medical procedures
  • Care preferences or restrictions
  • A responsible adult or phone number for someone to contact

Before you are sent home, ask any questions you may have about your care. Make sure you keep all your paperwork, discharge instructions, and medicines if you receive any.

If you have a primary care provider listed in your medical record, we will give them a copy of your visit summary. Contact your primary care provider after you visit our emergency room. If you don’t have a primary care provider, we’re here to help you find one. Search Find A Doctor and make an appointment.

Visit our website or text ’ER’ to 32222 to find out the HCA ER wait times closest to you (message and data rates may apply).