How Does a Nurse Triage Cases in an Emergency Department?


Quick Answer

A nurse triages cases in an emergency department by using a system such as a color-coding scheme to identify seriously ill patients who require urgent care and those with mild ailments or injuries that can await treatment. The nurse conducts a visual assessment of a patient and obtains his information, such as his medical history and current medication, explains HowStuffWorks. The nurse also measures the patient’s vital signs, such as his temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, states MedicineNet.

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Full Answer

The color-coding scheme uses different color tags to sort patients. Red tags denote patients who are unstable and need immediate treatment to survive, while yellow tags identify patients requiring observation and are not in danger of death. Nurses place patients assigned green tags on a waiting list to ensure the initial treatment of critically injured or ill victims, according to MedicineNet.

Nurses reserve white tags for patients who are ready for hospital dismissal, while black tags denote the deceased and patients who are unlikely to survive. Upon triage assessment, the emergency department uses the information provided by the nurse to assign patients to doctors for diagnosis and treatment, states HowStuffWorks.

The application of the coding scheme varies by hospital but typically involves the use of a color- or number-based system, reports HowStuffWorks. The coding system is also dynamic and may change based on the patient’s progress. Patients who are at risk of developing complications often require acute care, which may influence the nurse’s coding.

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