Emergency Medicine

Choose an Essentia Health emergency department near you in Minnesota, North Dakota, or Wisconsin for fast, compassionate medical care.

If you have life-threatening symptoms, call 911.

When Should I Go to the Emergency Room?

Go to the emergency room (ER) if you or a loved one has a serious or life-threatening illness or injury.

Medical Insight: Heart Attack Symptoms Video Transcript


The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical Insight. A photo appears of a man clutching his chest, around his heart.

TRACY BRIGGS: When you picture someone having a heart attack, the image that might come to mind is someone clasping their chest in severe pain. But the fact is, heart attacks make themselves known through more than just a sharp, stabbing pain to your chest.

Matthew Massman holds a complex heart model, answering questions from Tracy Briggs.

Matthew Massman is a physician's assistant in the emergency department at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes. He sees patients complaining of all kinds of symptoms which, in the end, could turn out to be heart attacks. In addition to chest pain, heart attack sufferers often complain of shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, sweating, radiating pain throughout the body, upper abdominal discomfort, and unexplained weakness. These symptoms might not be a heart attack, but could be gas pain or even more serious blood clots in the lungs or pneumonia. However, Massman says it never hurts to get it checked out.

Matthew Massman, emergency medicine, speaks to the camera. He sits in a patient examination room.

MATTHEW MASSMAN: You, know that's what we do. We make sure that there's not a problem. And like I tell many of my patients, I would much rather tell you, I don't think that this is a serious problem than say, I wish I would have seen you four hours sooner. TRACY BRIGGS: Coming

A patient speaks with a health provider. Afterwards, an animation is presented that depicts what happens to blood vessels under a heart attack.

in early is key when you consider what's actually happening with a heart attack. During a heart attack, an artery becomes blocked, literally starving the organ of much needed oxygen. MATTHEW MASSMAN: If you're having damage your heart in the case of a heart attack, time is your heart. And so the longer you go without oxygen to your heart, the longer the risk of complications are. TRACY BRIGGS: Massman says one of the most important warning signs that you might be having a heart attack is something he calls exertional chest pain. Your chest hurts while you're doing something, like mowing the lawn, shoveling the sidewalk, or even walking on the treadmill. He says even if it starts to feel better after a while, it's still important to come in and be seen.

A patient works on a treadmill behind Tracy Briggs.

With this Essentia Health Medical Insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.

The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical Insight.

If you need quick care, but your condition is not life threatening, Essentia offers many services that do not require an appointment, including:

  • E-Visits – Online visits for more than 20 conditions. Receive a diagnosis and treatment plan for just $35.
  • Convenient Care – Walk-in care for minor illnesses and injuries that do not require lab or imaging services.
  • Walk-in Care – Walk-in care for minor illnesses and injuries. All walk-in care locations have lab services, including blood draw. Not all locations offer X-ray.
  • Urgent Care – Walk-in care for minor illnesses and injuries that may require lab or imaging services.

During clinic hours, you can also call your primary care provider with questions or to see if a same-day appointment is available. Choosing the right type of care can save you time and money. If you’re an Essentia patient, and you’re not sure where to go, call our Nurse Care Line.

Coordinated Care

If you’re already an Essentia Health patient, your emergency room doctors will have access to your Essentia medical record. That means you’ll benefit from coordinated care during and after your visit.

Emergency Services Team

Count on Essentia’s multidisciplinary team to evaluate and treat your condition as quickly as possible and provide support to your family. Your team may include:

Toxicology Services

If you or a loved one come into contact with a toxic substance or have symptoms of an overdose, get care as quickly as possible. Several Essentia Health emergency departments in northeastern Minnesota offer toxicology services. Your doctor may consult with a toxicologist who has advanced training to diagnose and treat conditions caused by exposure to chemicals, poisons, drugs, and other substances.

What to Expect at the ER

When you arrive, a nurse will check your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, and ask questions about the reason for your visit. You also may be asked about your health history, medications, or drug allergies.

Most patients are seen in the order they arrive, but those with life-threatening issues must be seen first. If you don't need immediate care, you’ll stay in the waiting room until an exam room is ready.

Tell a staff member if your condition gets worse. Don’t leave without being seen. If you decide to leave without treatment, talk to a staff person first.

Your Exam at the ER

You’ll be taken to an exam room where a nurse will assess your condition and ask questions about your injury or illness. A paramedic or patient care technician may help. Then, an emergency department doctor or advanced practitioner will finish your exam.

You may be asked the same questions by different members of your care team. This is done for your safety and to make sure you get the best care. You can rely on your care team to listen to you and communicate with each other.

Tests at the ER

Depending on your condition, your doctor may order blood tests, X-rays, etcetera. Your doctor may also consult with other specialists. Trust us to do our best to identify the cause of your health concern.

Care & Treatment

Once we diagnose your condition, your care team will develop a treatment plan. You may get treatment in the emergency room and go home, or you may be admitted to the hospital. Before going home, you’ll receive discharge instructions, which may include information about medications. You may need to get follow-up care from a primary care doctor or a specialist.

How You Can Help

To help your visit to the emergency department go as smoothly as possible we recommend you:

  • Bring your photo ID and insurance card
  • Wait to eat or drink until your care team says it’s OK
  • Know the name of your primary care doctor
  • Know the names and doses of any medications you take
  • Limit your cell phone use while staff cares for you
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer
  • Check with staff before you use the restroom
  • Ask questions and take notes

Give Your Feedback

Within a few weeks of your visit, you may get a phone call asking about your experience. We welcome the opportunity to hear your feedback. You can also let us know about your experience by sending an email to our patient relations department.

Your Privacy, Safety & Comfort

Expect your care team at Essentia to ensure your privacy and well-being by:

  • Verifying your name and date of birth each time we interact with you
  • Closing your room’s door or curtain
  • Keeping your bed’s side rails up and call lights in reach
  • Practicing good hand hygiene
  • Answering your questions and listening to concerns about privacy


Medical Insight: Frostbite - Essentia Health Video Transcript

The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health, Medical Insight. People walk through falling snow

TRACEY BRIGGS: At the start of winter, many of us smile at the thought of Jack Frost nipping at our nose. But as the dark days of winter drag on, that cold nip can become painful and debilitating. But when should you see a doctor for potential frostbite? Essentia Health emergency medicine doctor Chris Anderson says it's really a matter of severity. Most of us have probably had frostnip when skin gets very cold and white. But after being rewarmed, there's no permanent damage. But that's not the case for frostbite. CHRIS ANDERSON:

Dr. Chris Anderson, Essentia Health Emergency Medicine. He sits in an examining room

Over time, frostbite will often progress to fluid filled blisters. You can get even blood filled blisters. And over time after two or three weeks, frostbitten tissue will turn necrotic, black, and eventually slough off or fall off. TRACEY BRIGGS: Dr. Anderson says in severe cases, fingers, toes, or limbs even need to be amputated. And they see several frostbite cases every year. Sometimes it's people caught unprepared. But more often, it's something else.

A person shovels out their car

CHRIS ANDERSON: The most common scenario is actually drug and alcohol use. Alcohol can be a big contributor. Their judgment gets clouded, and they end up getting exposed too long. And it can also affect the sensation in your limbs, so you may not notice changes as quickly. TRACEY BRIGGS: Dr. Anderson says the absolute best medicine for frostbite is prevention. Use common sense when temperatures plummet, as bare skin can be frostbitten in a matter of minutes, depending upon wind-chill and exposure. CHRIS ANDERSON: Plan ahead. Make sure you're wearing proper clothing, and have a good plan of how you can get warm if you need to. TRACEY BRIGGS:

Tracey Briggs, Essentia Health Medical Insight Host

If you suspect frostnip or frostbite, Dr. Anderson says just soak cold skin in water between 100 and 104 degrees. Any hotter and you could burn yourself. If, after a few minutes, the skin still doesn't look or feel normal, or there's a change in sensation or an inability to move, you should go see the doctor. Frostbite is nothing to mess around with. With this Essentia Health Medical Insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.

The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health, Medical Insight.

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