Triage Nursing in Hospital Emergency Departments

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In the U.S., a visit to the Emergency Department (ED) has become notorious for its hours-long wait time, which may be tough for individuals suffering a wide variety of conditions. Yet while many patients are watching the clock, most don’t realize how the ED functions – specifically, with triage nursing.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Duquesne University School of Nursing.

How triage nurses play a vital role in providing emergency patient care.

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Roles and Responsibilities of Triage Nurses

Roles and Responsibilities

Triage nurses have a wealth of duties to handle. They must prioritize patient care. They must also take vital signs, assess patient status, take patient medical history and personal information, and closely monitor a patient’s condition. This data helps them to administer the appropriate medicines and treatment strategies for the patient. Triage nurses must work closely with other healthcare professionals to coordinate these strategies. Finally, triage nurses must chart patient condition, treatment, and medications, updating electronic medical records when necessary.

Skills in Triage Nursing

Triage nurses must possess a unique skill set to thrive. It’s essential for them to have time-sensitive clinical decision-making skills, critical thinking competencies, and an ability to accurately identify patient problems – all while showing an ability to cope with a high stress environment. They must also have well-developed interpersonal and communication skills and must have the capacity to establish emotional boundaries.

Keys to Success in Triage Nursing

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) position statement calls for periodic assessment and continued education for triage nurse professionals. Per this statement, triage must be performed by a registered nurse with at least one year of experience in emergency nursing. Triage nurses must also complete additional education to build triage knowledge and skills and must participate in ongoing professional education. Additionally, they must adhere to appropriate standards of practice and accreditation. Finally, triage nurses must participate in research on ED patient outcomes.

The Future

Technology Trends n Triage Nursing

One of the biggest trends in the triage nursing profession is the use of automation. Automated machines like BeWell’s WellPoint self-service kiosk takes a patient’s weight, blood pressure, and oxygen levels and update the patient’s medical health record.

Another key trend is the Emergency Severity Index, or ESI. This index is an e-triage tool that ranks a patient’s condition based on a scale of 1 to 5, used to support the assessments made by triage nurses.

Patient flow software is another major trend in triage nursing. This software produced electronic patient tracking systems used to monitor hospital beds. This can expedite a patient’s transfer out of the ED.

A fourth important trend involves the concept of virtual check-ins. For instance, the app iTriage allows patients to locate hospital emergency rooms that are close by with short wait times. When the right one if found, patients can complete an electronic registration form. This allows triage nurses and hospital staff to prepare for a patient’s arrival.

A triage nurse’s ability to conduct focused assessments and prioritize a patient’s clinical condition in an emergency care situation is not just something that’s important. It’s a function that helps save lives.