Introduction: There is increasing interest in 5-level triage systems in emergency departments; however, the adoption of a new system places heavy training demands on ED department nurses and physicians. One emerging training option is online learning. The purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of an online course in the 5-level Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) on the clinical practice of the triage nurse.
Methods: Interviews were held with 23 emergency nurses from across Canada. A chart audit of triage codes from 367 charts from 6 hospitals was conducted.
Results: The most consistent finding was that the majority of RN staff enjoyed the online course and believed it had improved their triage practice. Nurses believed that their patient assessments were more thorough, accurate, and consistent throughout the department. Improved communication between staff and with patients and families was identified. Nurses reported using what they learned to improve triage assessment. Triage accuracy was high; the overall agreement between CTAS graduates and the chart auditor/expert within one CTAS level was 99.7%. Nurses also identified a number of organizational barriers to CTAS implementation after the course.
Discussion: The online format appears to be an effective, efficient, and convenient way to educate large numbers of ED staff in CTAS. Further research is needed regarding the use of multimedia and computer online chat options to further enhance the online learning experience for nurses.