Implementing best practice into the emergency department triage process

Luke Burgess, Sonia Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Triage is the process by which emergency departments (EDs) sort patients presenting for medical treatment. The Australasian Triage Scale, validated to measure urgency, answers the question 'This patient should wait for medical assessment and treatment no longer than…' Multiple patients may present within short time frames, and some will have conditions that have outcomes directly related to timeliness of treatment such as stroke, sepsis and myocardial infarction. The safety of patients within the ED is thus directly related to the triage system. This project aimed to compare current triage practice within a metropolitan ED with evidence-based practice guidelines produced by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and College of Emergency Nurses Australasia. 

Methods: The clinical audit project was undertaken in an ED in a large metropolitan hospital. Two hundred episodes of triage were audited, 100 in the preimplementation and 100 in the postimplementation phase. Current practice was compared with triage guidelines, barriers to adherence to evidence-based practice identified, and interventions were planned and implemented to address these. The audits of practice focused on five key areas and were assessed against 12 criteria: arrival and triage, documentation, compliance with policy, communication, and triage staff. 

Results: Overall five criteria showed improvement, with reassessment of patients waiting for treatment, and the time taken for each triage episode achieving the greatest amount of improvement. Four criteria showed no improvement or a decline, and two achieved 100% adherence in both audits. 

Discussion: The project sought to undertake a clinical audit of triage practice to evaluate the adherence of practice to evidence-based guidelines. The project has provided strong support for the implementation of a formal nursing role to support the care of waiting room patients, and act as a second triage nurse during periods of high activity. The physical triage environment has been identified as a barrier to optimal adherence to evidence-based practice guidelines. Using effective communication to manage the waiting experience of patients can have positive benefits for both patients and staff.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Australasian Triage Scale
  • emergency department
  • emergency nursing
  • evidence-based practice
  • triage


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