Emergency medicine: Expert care when you need it most

Emergencies occur when you least expect them. At UW Health, we’re ready to help. Day or night, our team of experienced doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are available.
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Programs and research

Our pledge to you: Exceptional care, comfort and convenience

We have three emergency departments (EDs). Two EDs are located at 600 Highland Ave. in Madison.

University Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital emergency departments are an integral part of our Level I Trauma centers. They share the same entrance and are physically connected within the same building. This means you have access to all medical and surgical specialties for adults and children around the clock.

  • Adult and Pediatric Level I Trauma Center with specialists ready to care for the most serious injuries.

  • Stroke care specialists are available 24/7 with a dedicated Neuro ICU on site

  • Heart specialists to quickly diagnose and treat a heart attack

  • A verified Burn Center

The emergency department at UW Health at the American Center is equipped to handle emergencies, admit patients for hospitalization and transfer adults or children to our Level I trauma center for more specialized needs. 

Collectively, our emergency departments provide the latest technology, diagnostic tests, and emergency treatments, all in comforting environments. While we work to treat you as quickly as possible, our staff also respects your privacy and will work to help your visit go smoothly.  We will evaluate and treat you as quickly as possible whether you’re admitted to the hospital or are able to return to your home after treatment.

Treatment is based on your condition and needs. The expertise of the entire UW Health team is available to you. We work to provide all the help you need while easing your stress.

If you need prompt medical attention but your condition isn’t a life-threatening emergency, you may wish to consider urgent care.

We have robust research initiatives to help improve emergency care in a variety of settings, and to specific groups of people like children and older adults. We work with other departments at the University of Wisconsin, and partner with institutions across the country and around the world. Learn more about our research programs

Emergency care tailored to your needs

Our EDs offer programs and services to ensure you have the best experience possible.

At University Hospital, adults and kids enter through the same ED entrance, but children and their families go to a special waiting room while a care team at the American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) prepares to see them. This area has kid-friendly activities to ease the anxiety children might feel during their visit.

The AFCH emergency department is one of only two dedicated pediatric departments in the state of Wisconsin, staffed by a care team specialized to treat emergent injuries and illness in children. Fellowship-trained doctors offer expert care alongside dedicated nurses and child life specialists who are experts at helping children through their visit and treatment.

We have 11 patient rooms specially designed for kids. Each room is decorated in a child-friendly theme and equipped with special light displays to put anxious kids (and parents) at ease.

Some people require a longer stay than a typical ED visit. If this is the case for you, we will admit you to our 10-bed Clinical Decision Unit. There, a care team can monitor your health, run additional tests and quickly provide treatment, if necessary. We will admit you to the hospital if we determine you need additional care.

Special waiting areas are available near our trauma rooms. They allow family members to gather in a private space while they await word on a critically ill or injured loved one.

Conditions and treatments

Trust us when you need emergency care

We treat conditions and injuries that could be life-threatening or pose an immediate risk to your health and well-being. Patients are brought to our emergency departments from around the region, and some can be brought to us by Med Flight, our air and ground critical care transport service.

Locations

Emergency care for all members of your family

Emergency care is provided at three locations.

  • ED Signs-0542
    ED Signs-0542
    University Hospital - Emergency Department
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 262-2398
    • Open now
    •  
      View hours, services and more
  • The American Center
    The American Center
    UW Health at The American Center - Emergency Department
    • 4602 Eastpark Blvd. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 440-6252
    • Open now
    •  
      View hours, services and more
  • American Family Children's Hospital
    American Family Children's Hospital
    American Family Children's Hospital - Pediatric Emergency Department
    • 1675 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 262-2398
    • Open now
    •  
      View hours, services and more

Meet our team

Caring people caring for you

Our emergency medicine providers work as a team to provide you care. A board-certified emergency physician leads the care team. Others who might be involved in your care include registered nurses, technicians, pharmacists, social workers, child life specialists and respiratory therapists.

Our providers
Our providers

Patient resources

Help when you need it most: What to expect in the ED

Our goal is to see and treat everyone in the ED as quickly as possible.

When you arrive, please check in at the emergency department reception desk. Staff will register you and ask questions about your illness or injury.

Triage is the process we use to determine which patient needs to be cared for next. After you’ve been registered, a clinical provider will take your vital signs. A nurse or a physician will then evaluate you to determine if aspects of your care need to be started more immediately. You may then be moved directly to an exam room or to the waiting area until an exam room is available.

Wait times vary depending on time of day and the number of other patients needing to be seen. We help the sickest and most severely injured people first, so please be aware that people are not always seen in the order they arrive and some people may have emergency medical conditions that may not be obvious to others. We appreciate your patience as we care for all patients who need our care.

A stay in the ED typically lasts 2 to 6 hours. Sometimes it can be longer. The length of your stay depends on what tests you need and whether your doctor wants a specialist to see you. The number and conditions of other people being treated in the ED can also impact the length of your stay.

Your doctor will determine if you should remain in the hospital. If you’re admitted to the hospital, we’ll make every effort to explain your condition and answer your questions. Social workers and case managers may meet with you to make sure you understand your plan of care. 

If you don’t require a hospital stay, we’ll provide instructions on caring for yourself at home. We’ll also provide prescriptions if there are any medicines we think you should take.