Nurse triage in theory and in practice

Arch Emerg Med. 1993 Sep;10(3):220-8. doi: 10.1136/emj.10.3.220.


'Nurse Triage' refers to the formal process of early assessment of patients attending an accident and emergency (A&E) department by a trained nurse, to ensure that they receive appropriate attention, in a suitable location, with the requisite degree of urgency. The benefits claimed for nurse triage include better patient outcomes, through clinical management reaching those in greatest need of it first. A recent study of nurse triage in a British A&E department failed to demonstrate the benefits claimed: patients undergoing triage were delayed, especially those in the most urgent groups. No differences were noted between the two study groups in levels of satisfaction with the A&E process. The results brought forth criticism from all quarters. In this paper the points made by the critics are considered, and an attempt to answer them is made.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Nursing Research*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Audit*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Triage / standards*
  • United Kingdom