Characteristics of patients who did not wait for treatment in the emergency department: a follow up survey

Accid Emerg Nurs. 2006 Jan;14(1):56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.aaen.2005.11.004.


A significant number of patients leave the emergency department (ED) before being treated or after treatment has been initiated but not completed. This paper reports the findings of a study examining the demographics and characteristics of those who did not wait for treatment in an ED in Melbourne. A telephone survey was undertaken to examine the reasons they did not wait. Data were collected in four one-month periods across the year and patients were telephoned within 72 h of their departure from the ED. The majority of those who did not wait were Australian Triage Scale category 4 or 5, male, and with a mean age of 37 years. Sixty per cent of those who did not wait presented between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am and waited an average of 130 min before leaving. Over fifty per cent (127) of those surveyed (n=243) sought treatment elsewhere and over a third (72) thought their problem was inappropriate for an ED. However, the need for communication with patients in the waiting room should not be under-played.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication
  • Emergency Nursing / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Patient Dropouts / psychology*
  • Patient Dropouts / statistics & numerical data
  • Seasons
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Triage / organization & administration
  • Victoria
  • Waiting Lists*