Emergency Department

Operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week providing care for the acutely ill and injured.

It is located on Scenic Drive, Nowra, beside the main hospital entrance. There is a drop off area outside the Department.

Afterhours access to the Department can be gained by using the intercom.

The Emergency Department is not designed to provide ongoing care, and may therefore transfer patients to the appropriate ward for admission, or in some cases to another hospital for specialist care.

The Emergency Department reviews its activities regularly as a part of Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health District’s commitment to providing quality care and in keeping with recognised healthcare standards, practices and ethics.

Is it an Emergency?

It is common for people faced with an injury or illness to wonder if their condition really is an emergency or not.

An emergency can be described as an acute or serious illness or injury that may lead to severe complications if not treated quickly.

Patients requiring urgent attention will always be seen first.

Treatment in the Emergency Department is based on clinical need, and not when you arrive, your financial situation, or whether you have health insurance.

What if it isn't an Emergency?

If your illness or injury is not urgent you may need to wait some time to see a Doctor.

Alternatively, you may seek treatment for non-urgent illness or injury through your General Practitioner (GP), or an afterhours GP service.

Non-emergency conditions are best treated by a General Practitioner because:

  • You usually won’t have to wait long to be seen
  • It frees up Emergency Departments to treat genuine emergency cases
  • General Practitioners who you visit regularly will become familiar with your medical history over time

GPs can:

  • Generally treat you for non-urgent illnesses and injuries more quickly than a hospital Emergency Department
  • Prescribe medications
  • Refer you to other health practitioners for x-rays and blood tests
  • Make referrals to specialists
  • Organise admission to hospital if required

Many General Practitioners work together in group practices or through medical centres which provide extended hours of service.

What should I bring?

  • A list of all your medications and doses. If you don't have time to make a list simply bring your medications with you
  • The name and phone number of your regular GP or medical centre
  • Your Medicare card (or passport, if you are not an Australian citizen)

What will happen when I'm brought into the Emergency Department?

Once inside the Emergency Department you will be cared for by nursing staff and Medical Officers. The Emergency Team includes a Nurse Practitioner, Advanced Clinical Nurses, Specialist Nurse Consultants in Aged Care and Mental Health, Registered Nurses, Enrolled Nurses and Medical Officers. Non clinical support is provided by Support Officers and Clerical Staff.

It is important to realise that you may experience further waiting time if you need to have an x-ray or other tests, or if a specialist needs to see you.

Once you have been assessed and treated, your clinicians will decide if you should be admitted to the hospital for further treatment or if you can return home.

If the Medical Officer refers you to a specialist hospital team for review or admission, there may be a further delay before a registrar can see you. Care will then be planned for you either in hospital or in the community. Many treatments can now be undertaken at home or through outpatient facilities. If you don’t need to be admitted you will be sent home and other arrangements will be made for your care if necessary. Ongoing treatment at home may be arranged with the support of the hospital or community-based teams and in conjunction with your regular GP.


When you arrive you should first be seen by the Triage Nurse, who will assess your injuries or illness and allocate a priority according to how urgently you require treatment. A brief overview or questioning may take place before you are taken into the triage room for observations. This system ensures that the sickest patients are treated by doctors first. The triage system exists in all public hospitals throughout Australia and uses a uniform set of criteria to categorise patients for treatment.

If your condition gets worse you should tell the Triage Nurse immediately.

Where appropriate, and under set protocols, a nurse may start treatment on your arrival. These nurses are Advanced Clinical Nurses. Examples of care they may start include ordering of x-rays, blood tests or pain relief.

If the Triage Nurse is busy assessing another patient you may be asked to register with the clerical staff first.

What happens next?

After being seen by the Triage Nurse you should go to the reception desk where the Clerical Officer will register your name on the department’s computer system and create a unique computer file for your records. They will:

  • Ask for your Medicare card (or your passport, if you are not a citizen of Australia)
  • Note your contact details
  • Note contact details for your regular GP or medical centre
  • Record contact details for your work if it is a work-related illness or injury covered by workers compensation insurance
  • Obtain any previous Medical Record and create a file

Clerical staff are responsible for registering essential information regarding your identity. They also deal with issues relating to any charges you may incur as a result of your visit. Care is delivered to all patients regardless of culture, beliefs, sexual orientation or disability issues. Your privacy will be respected at all times.

What happens if I decide not to wait?

All patients who present have the right to see a Medical Officer, but sometimes due to the priority of care there may be long delays.

If you decide you do not wish to wait to be seen by a Medical Officer, it is important that you see the Triage Nurse prior to leaving.

Younger patients in the Emergency Department

Children and adolescents under 14 years of age will ideally be managed in the paediatric bay in the department. This four bed area is a more comfortable, family friendly environment for children. The department also has colouring books and activities to help during waiting periods.