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River Falls Area Hospital

Emergency Department

Life-saving emergency care – close to home

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715-307-6150.

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Stroke patients at River Falls Area Hospital have 24-hour access to stroke care experts at United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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In emergency medical situations, whether an illness or injury, every moment is critical. And when you need access to exceptional medical care — fast — you can be confident that we're here for you.

River Falls Area Hospital has been designated a Level IV trauma center by the state of Wisconsin. This designation verifies that River Falls Area Hospital has the expertise and resources to provide care to trauma patients, including stabilization and advanced trauma life support.

Patients can be assured they will receive safe, high-quality care from our board-certified physicians and nursing team. Evaluation and treatment is provided in conjunction with advanced lifesaving equipment and technology. If a higher level of care is needed, River Fall's emergency team will evaluate, treat and stabilize in preparation for rapid transfer to the most appropriate facility by ground or air transport.

The River Falls Area Hospital Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a non-profit hospital we treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Upon arrival, a triage nurse will evaluate patients and determine the level of care required. We pride ourselves on providing efficient care of a wide range of conditions such as earaches, lacerations, infections and fractures, as well as life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest.

Falls Prevention Program

The Community Falls Prevention Program is focused on helping seniors stay healthy, safe and independent for as long as possible. The community falls team will provide one-on-one consultations, recommendations and education to greatly decrease risk factors for falls.


Source: Healthy Communities, Summer 2012
Reviewed by: Healthy Communities, Summer 2012
First Published: 07/18/2012
Last Reviewed: 07/18/2012

Level IV trauma center

An ER nurse and doctor attend to a patient

As a Level IV trauma center, designated by the state of Wisconsin, the Emergency Department provides stabilization and advanced trauma life support.

What does "Level IV trauma center" mean?

  • A physician and nurses who are specially trained in caring for trauma patients are present in the Emergency Department 24/7.
  • The state of Wisconsin conducts an on-site inspection every three years to evaluate processes to ensure optimal trauma care is provided at River Falls Area Hospital. Trauma data is collected and reviewed to help identify injury prevention and community and staff educational opportunities.
  • A systematic improvement process addresses system issues and continually improves the patient care experience.

When trauma patients are brought to the Emergency Department, they are met by a highly trained team of experts including a physician, trauma nurses, certified nurse anesthetist, respiratory therapist, laboratory technician, radiology technician and pharmacist.

If a trauma patient's injuries require access to specialists, seamless transfer to Regions Hospital, the closest Level I adult and pediatric trauma center, is quickly coordinated.

Quick thinking proves a lifesaver

Ken and Cindy

Ken Giske, pictured with Cyndy Bayer, RN, is happy to be back at work and have no side effects from his stroke.

Expert stroke care helps with complete recovery

As aquatic supervisor at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis, Ken Giske often works with people recovering from stroke. So when he felt his left hand suddenly go numb in fall 2010, he knew just what to do. "I looked at my wife and said, 'Let’s go,'" Giske recalled. "Within 10 minutes we were in the Emergency Department."

Giske was lucky because he recognized the numbness as a warning sign of a stroke. He was also fortunate because he headed straight to River Falls Area Hospital (RFAH), which offers the latest in stroke care and provides patients the best chance for survival and recovery.

"They saved my life, no question," Giske said of the RFAH doctors and nurses at RFAH.

A medical emergency

A stroke is an emergency. Stroke symptoms include:

  • sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden severe headache.

Though Giske’s symptoms weren’t dramatic, they came on suddenly — the key warning. "Too many people decide to wait and see if they feel better," said Cyndy Bayer, RN, trauma coordinator at RFAH. "It’s always better to err on the safe side, come in and have us send you home than to have the long-term effects of a stroke."

Immediate response

When Giske arrived at RFAH, Bayer called a "Code Stroke." At that notice, a specialized stroke team responds immediately to the Emergency Department. Within minutes, patients undergo a CT scan. A CT provides detailed pictures of the brain. The neurologist and neuroradiologist located at United Hospital, a certified Primary Stroke Center, are able to see the CT remotely, confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatment.

When Giske's CT confirmed a stroke, he was given a clot-busting medicine called tPA. Receiving tPA within one hour of stroke symptoms offers the best chance at complete recovery. That's why it's so important that people come to RFAH right away, Bayer explained. "The sooner we can dissolve the blood clot in the artery of the brain and improve blood flow, the better the outcome."

Once tPA is started, stroke patients are transferred to United Hospital Intensive Care. There, stroke experts can provide sophisticated monitoring and advanced treatment, as necessary.

Thanks to his fast response and the excellent care he received at RFAH, Giske made a full recovery. His advice to others: "Recognize the signs and act immediately. Don’t mess around," he urged. "And if you’re not sure, go anyway."


Source: Healthy Communities, Summer 2012
Reviewed by: Healthy Communities, Summer 2012
First Published: 07/11/2012
Last Reviewed: 07/11/2012

Top emergency care treats kids like family

Emma relaxes with her mom, Deanna Freese, by her side after receiving nitrous oxide gas before having a needle procedure done.

Emma relaxes with her mom, Deanna Freese, by her side after receiving nitrous oxide gas before having a needle procedure done.

How nitrous oxide works

Many medical procedures require a patient to stay still — a tall order for most young children. "Nitrous oxide calms kids," explained Karen Swenson, RN. "It’s the ‘laughing’ gas you may have gotten at your dentist’s office." Your child first chooses a favorite smell, such as bubble gum. He or she then breathes in the pleasant-smelling medicine through a mask. The mask is held gently in place until your child feels drowsy. The effect disappears quickly after the mask is removed.

"The nitrous oxide made the ED experience not as scary for our daughter Emma," stated Deanna Freese. Nitrous oxide has both benefits and risks, which your child’s nurse or doctor will discuss with you.

When your children need emergency care, River Falls Area Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) is close and convenient.

"At our ED, we treat young patients like family in a reassuring atmosphere," said Karen Swenson, RN, who manages the department. "We even have bedside registration."

Calming fear and minimizing pain

Since December 2012, the ED has offered nitrous oxide sedation to children undergoing frightening or uncomfortable procedures. (See the sidebar at right for details.) No other hospital in the area provides this service.

"Nitrous oxide is a safe, fast-acting inhaled medicine," explained Swenson. "It wears off quickly, making it a great choice to calm a child for placing an IV, giving stitches or inserting a urinary catheter.

"We also have many treatment options that don’t involve needles or that make injections easier for children to handle," Swenson said. For example, pain-relieving and anxiety-reducing medicines can be sprayed into a child’s nose. A needle-free device called a J-Tip can numb the skin before a child gets an IV or spinal tap.

A family-friendly ED

"It’s never fun to come to the ED," Swenson said, "but we make ours as welcoming as possible." To keep kids entertained, the hospital auxiliary has donated doctor kits, bubbles, glitter wands, Slinkys and pinwheels.

There’s even a wagon to transport young patients to and from X-ray. River Falls Area Hospital’s ED is capable of treating all emergencies. If specialized treatment is needed, a seamless transfer to St. Paul Children’s Hospital is arranged. In the meantime, kids in emergency situations benefit from the best new techniques to reduce their fear and pain.


Source: Healthy Communities magazine, spring 2013
Reviewed by: Karen Swenson, RN
First Published: 04/08/2013
Last Reviewed: 04/08/2013