Emergency department triage: is there a link between nurses' personal characteristics and accuracy in triage decisions?

Accid Emerg Nurs. 2006 Apr;14(2):83-8. doi: 10.1016/j.aaen.2005.12.001. Epub 2006 Mar 15.


Introduction: A common task of registered nurses is to perform emergency department triage, often using an especially designed triage scale in their assessment. However, little information is available about the factors that promote the quality of these decisions. This study investigated personal characteristics of registered nurses and the accuracy in their acuity ratings of patient scenarios.

Methods: Using the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS), 423 registered nurses from 48 (62%) Swedish emergency departments individually triaged 18 patient scenarios.

Results: The registered nurses' percentage of accurate acuity ratings was 58%, with a range from 22% to 89% accurate acuity ratings per registered nurse. In total, 60.3% of the registered nurses accurately triaged the scenarios in 50-69% of the cases. No relationship was found between personal characteristics of the registered nurses and their ability to triage.

Discussion: The lack of a relationship between personal characteristics of registered nurses and their ability to triage suggests that there might be intrapersonal characteristics, particularly the decision-making strategies used which can partly explain this dispersion. Future research that focuses on decision-making is likely to contribute in identifying and describing essential nursing characteristics for successful emergency department triage.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Emergency Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sweden
  • Triage / statistics & numerical data*