What is triage?

Update from WACHS - Midwest

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About: Carnarvon Hospital / Emergency Department Exmouth Health Service / Emergency Department Geraldton Hospital / Emergency Department Meekatharra Hospital / Emergency Department

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Triage is the sorting of patients in a hospital Emergency Department (ED) according to the urgency of the patient’s need for treatment and care.

When you arrive at the ED either by ambulance, Royal Flying Doctor Service, by yourself, or with your family or carer, a triage nurse will assess the urgency of your condition.

If you are critically ill or have life-threatening injuries you will be taken immediately to a treatment room for diagnosis and care.

If you have less urgent medical needs you will either be made comfortable in a treatment area or asked to go to the ED waiting area.  You will then be seen according to your medical need.

The urgency of your condition is decided according to the five categories of the Australasian Triage Scale.  You will be given a rating from one to five, with category one being patients in need of the most urgent care.  These ratings mean that the sickest patients will always be seen before people with less urgent needs. You can ask the Triage Nurse what rating you have been given.

Depending on your condition and how you arrive at the ED, the triage nurse will ask for your name, contact and next of kin details,  Medicare card, and then assess your medical condition to determine how urgently you need care. The nurse may also take some tests such as your blood pressure and temperature and you may be asked to provide a urine or blood sample. 

What you can do during your visit to the Emergency Department:

  • Answer all questions as clearly and openly as possible.
  • Let the triage nurse know if your condition or symptoms become worse.
  • Ask the triage nurse any questions you may have about pain relief, contacting anyone, or if you are allowed to eat or drink while you wait.
  • Speak up if you don’t understand any information or instructions that are provided to you.
  • Ask about any recommendations or referrals for follow-up care (e.g. GP, other health and community services, specialist, or outpatient appointment).
  • Request a medical certificate from the doctor if needed (i.e. time off work or study) and a letter for your GP.
  • Ensure you have all of your personal belongings before leaving the ED.

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