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Emergency Department Planning and Resource Guidelines

Revised April 2014, October 2007, June 2004, June 2001 with current title

Reaffirmed September 1996

Revised June 1991

Originally approved December 1985 titled “Emergency Care Guidelines”


The purpose of this policy is to provide an outline of, as well as references concerning the resources and planning needed to meet the emergency medical care needs of the individual and the community.

Emergency departments* must possess the staff and resources necessary to evaluate all individuals presenting to the emergency department (ED). Emergency departments must also be able to provide or arrange treatment necessary to attempt to stabilize emergency patients who are found to have an emergency medical condition. Because of the unscheduled and episodic nature of health emergencies and acute illnesses, experienced and qualified physician, nursing, and ancillary personnel must be available 24 hours a day to serve those needs.

Emergency departments also provide treatment for individuals whose health needs are not of an emergent nature, but for whom EDs may be the only accessible or timely entry point into the broader health care system. EDs provide evaluation to anyone who believes they have an emergency condition under the prudent layperson standard and in accordance with EMTALA. Accessing an ED for care is an option exercised by patients seeking available high-quality services.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) believes that:

  • Emergency medical care must be available to all members of the public.
  • Access to appropriate emergency medical and nursing care must be unrestricted.
  • A smooth continuum should exist among prehospital providers, ED providers, and providers of definitive follow-up care.
  • Evaluation, management, and treatment of patients must be appropriate and expedient.
  • Resources should exist in the ED to accommodate each patient from the time of arrival through evaluation, decision-making, treatment, and disposition.
  • EDs should have policies and plans to provide effective administration, staffing, facility design, equipment, medication, and ancillary services.

* These guidelines are intended to apply to either hospital-based or free-standing emergency departments open 24 hours a day. 

Complete Policy Statement

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