Emergency departments are hospitals' ‘shop windows’ and first point of contact. How patients are received and managed here influences patients' outcomes and the anxiety and distress of all attendees: patients, families and friends. Long waiting times, ineffective communication, poor coordination and triage errors are frequent complaints. In a new article, now available on Early View, Hitchcock et al. take a close look at the triage process, observing and questioning how it really works. They depict a patient flow system at the mercy of arrival overload, hospital and emergency department overcrowding and access block. Inter-professional teamwork, good communication and skilled clinicians make the difference between good and poor outcomes; education and training for preparation and updating of triage staff, often inadequate, are essential to service quality.
Hitchcock M , Gillespie B, Crilly J, Chaboyer W (2013) Triage: an investigation of the process and potential vulnerabilities Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.12304