Emergency Medicine


Information for Emergency Department Patients

Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center has the busiest Emergency Department in the Armed Forces. You will receive the finest care possible from our staff.

Historically, from national test scores and evaluations, the Army has three of the top Emergency Medicine Residency Programs in the nation. Darnall is of one of these programs. Our program has been nationally accredited and approved to train emergency physicians since its establishment in 1980.

Emergency Physicians in the Emergency Department have completed training in the specialty of Emergency Medicine and many are board certified. They supervise the other doctors who are training in the Emergency Medicine Residency Program.

In addition to our regular staff, there are doctors, medical students, physician assistants, nurses, medics and others from various institutions that come to train in our Department.

Do you really have an emergency?

These are two excellent tools to help you decide whether to come to the Emergency Department:

  1. The "Take Care of Yourself" book you received when you enrolled in TRICARE Prime can help determine if a person needs to be seen immediately by a provider.
  2. The Nurse Advice Line 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273); Option 1, is a health care information service for Active-duty military, Family Members, and Retirees enrolled in a CRDAMC health clinic. The service is available 24 hours every day of the year.

When You Come To The ED

Please provide the front desk clerks with the information needed to create or update your medical treatment record.

If you have health insurance, you must, by federal law and Army regulations, provide that information to the in–processing clerk. Darnall is required to bill your health insurance company for your care. You will receive an explanation of the benefits paid from your company saying that they paid Darnall for your visit. You do not have to make any additional payments to Darnall or your insurance company for your care.

Help us help you

To complete the registration process, please provide the following information:

  • Identification Card to show eligibility for care.
  • Medical record and white medical stamp card or your TRICARE Prime Card.
  • List of medications you are currently taking (or bring them with you).
  • Identify any drug allergies.
  • Let us know if you are pregnant.

The Emergency Department provides care for patients with true emergencies and those with "urgent" medical needs.
Emergency care includes threatened loss of life, limb, or eyesight. Urgent care includes events that, if not taken care of within a short period, may lead to loss of life, limb, or eyesight. The Emergency Department treats other categories of patients as space permits. Civilian emergencies are also treated in the Emergency Department when brought by ambulances.


All patients coming to the Emergency Department must be screened and triaged. Triage classifies patients according to the severity or the potential for the condition to deteriorate. Triage makes sure that the most critically or potentially critically ill patients are treated first.

Patients are given a triage category ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most critically ill or injured. You may experience long waiting times when classified in categories 4 or 5.

Please remember, critical or seriously ill patients are always treated first, regardless of the time or manner of arrival.

Five triage categories:

  1. Patients who need emergent care to prevent immediate loss of life, limb, or eyesight.
  2. Patients who require care emergently to prevent life–threatening deterioration.
  3. Patients with conditions that require urgent treatment to prevent deterioration.
  4. Patients whose conditions are non–urgent but require treatment when available (low risk of significant deterioration if there is delay in care). Patient may go to a clinic if appropriate.
  5. Patients who should be treated in primary care facilities (Troop Medical Clinics, Pediatric Clinic, Family Care Clinic, or civilian Primary Care Manager under TRICARE Prime) if available. These patients may be seen in the Emergency Department after patients from more–emergent categories have been seen.

Lab Tests and X–rays

The Emergency Department staff may order lab tests or x–rays to help diagnose your condition. Although the Lab and Radiology are staffed 24–hours–a–day, it takes time to process and read the results.

Routine Care

The emergency room personnel may actually tell you that your symptoms do not warrant an emergency room visit. They may assist you in making a routine appointment with your Primary Care Manager. For continuity of health care, it is best to establish a relationship with your Primary Care Manager and visit that provider when problems arise.

TRICARE Prime Patients

As a result of your Emergency Department visit, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for surgery or additional medical care. Normally, this is a routine process, but there may be instances when Darnall does not have the services you need. In these cases, we may transfer you to another military or TRICARE network civilian hospital to receive care. Our physicians and nurses coordinate your transfer to another healthcare facility.

If you are not admitted but do require additional care, our staff may assist you in getting an appointment, but it is your responsibility to seek follow–up care. Whether you are enrolled in one of Darnall's health clinics or with a civilian network provider, you should schedule follow–up care with that provider.


Military retirees age 65 and older are usually eligible for Medicare. Once you become eligible for Medicare, you are no longer eligible to enroll in TRICARE Prime. However, since October 1, 2001, TRICARE For Life is available for retirees who have Medicare Part A & B. Under TRICARE For Life, TRICARE becomes the second payer after Medicare. TRICARE pays for medical care that is a benefit under both Medicare and TRICARE.

Retirees over age 65 may continue to be seen in the Emergency Department. If your illness or injury warrants it, we may admit you in order to stabilize your condition. We may have to transfer you to another medical facility if you need more definitive care. Let us know if you prefer a particular hospital or your private health insurance requires you to go to a specific facility. We will attempt to accommodate your request. In any event, you should seek follow–up care with your current provider.

Dependent Parents and/or Parents–in–Law of Active Duty Soldiers and Military Retirees

We recommend that you provide civilian health insurance for dependent parents. By law, dependent parents and parents–in–law (ID card holders) of active duty soldiers and military retirees have some health care benefits.

TRICARE allows these beneficiaries access to Emergency Departments for emergencies and urgent cases. However, because there is no space–available care at Darnall, follow–up or routine appointments are not available. If dependent parents are admitted to Darnall and stabilized, they may be transferred to a civilian provider for further care. It is your responsibility as the sponsor to provide them with a civilian care provider.

page last modified on: 9/25/2017

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