This paper analyses the literature on the patient experience within emergency departments. We identify six themes within the literature: waiting times, communication, cultural aspects of care, pain, the environment and dilemmas in accessing the patient experience. Overall, the literature has a North American bias and is largely quantitative in approach. Although levels of patient satisfaction are high, a number of issues arise within the review, which suggest areas where quality of care could improve. We also identify the problematic nature of accessing the patient experience and suggest future areas for researchers to explore.