Triage in Australian emergency departments: Results of a New South Wales survey

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australasian Emergency Care, 2019, 22 (2), pp. 81 - 86
Issue Date:
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© 2019 College of Emergency Nursing Australasia Aim: To describe current models of triage, the preparation and education of triage nurses, and methods of auditing triage practice in New South Wales emergency departments. Background: Triage is a critical component of emergency department practice; affecting patient safety and access to emergency care. Within Australia, triage is an autonomous role predominantly conducted by trained emergency nurses. Patient safety and timely access to emergency care relies upon the experience, education and training of emergency triage nurses. To date, little is known about triage models of care, the preparation and education of triage nurses, and assessment of triage practice and decision accuracy. Method: Descriptive, exploratory study design employing a self-reporting cross-sectional survey of clinical nurse consultants and educators in New South Wales. Results: The survey results reveal variability in models of triage, and the eligibility, preparation and education requirements of triage nurses; that appear geographically related. Auditing of triage practice was commonly undertaken retrospectively; feedback to triage nurses was infrequent. The survey found evidence of locally developed guidelines directing triage category allocation for specific conditions or symptoms. Conclusion: The purpose of triage is to ensure that the level of emergency care provided is commensurate with clinical urgency. Variability in the preparation, education and evaluation of triage nurses may in and of itself, contribute to poor patient outcomes. Further, workforce size and geography may impede auditing and the provision of feedback, which are critical to improving triage practice and triage nurse performance. It is imperative that the Emergency Triage Education Kit be revised and maintained in tandem with future revisions of the Australasian Triage Scale.
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