Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Rize, Turkey**
Haseki Training and Research Hospital, Clinic of Emergency Medicine, İstanbul, Turkey***
Erzincan University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Erzincan, Turkey
Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate pre-training perspectives of the staff, who were scheduled to undertake triage in hospitals of Ministry of Health, working in collaboration with university hospitals on the triage system.
Materials and Methods: This study included 33 workers who volunteered to participate. A questionnaire consisting of 19 questions on demographic characteristics and perspective on triage system was prepared.
Results: Of the sample group, 75.8% were female and the average age was 28.94±6.11 years. All participants in the study considered that emergency department was overused by the society. When the percentage of patients who were admitted to the emergency department for causes complying with the emergency criteria was questioned, 54.5% stated that 10% or less of the admissions were actual emergency cases. Triage practice was suggested by 54.5% of the participants to reduce crowding in emergency departments.
Conclusion: Triage practice which allows correct identification of patients who need the most urgent intervention in emergency departments is important in terms of both giving the right care to the right patients and quality of service provided by healthcare workers. Community-based education as well as training of workers on this subject is a necessity.
With increasing world population, as in all fields of the society, an imbalance has emerged between givers and receivers in healthcare. Triage systems have been developed particularly in the emergency departments, which are at the forefront in hospitals, in order to avoid demand and supply gap, to determine the priorities, and to guide on how the available sources should be used. Triage was originally developed for use in military in the 18th century (1,2). Civilian emergency departments’ use of triage was first described in 1964 under the influence of military experience (3). In time, numerous systems have been used and necessity for development of current systems has emerged (4-6).
In our country, standardization studies had been initiated in 2003 by the Service Quality Standards for Emergency Department, by defining “Triage Classification System” for every hospital within the context of “Ministry of Health of the Republic of Turkey, Health Transformation Project”. In 2009, this system was improved as triage practice and color-coding (7). However, in our country, there are variations in terms of the preferred triage system and the personnel in charge, similar to that observed throughout the world. In particular, variations in practice are present between university hospitals and hospitals run by the Ministry of Health. Therefore, in January 2015, it was aimed to plan training on triage practices provided in emergency departments of hospitals run by the Ministry of Health and to initiate standardized practice across Turkey.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the pre-training perspectives of healthcare professionals who were scheduled to undertake triage in hospitals of Ministry of Health, working in collaboration with university hospitals on the triage system.
The study was conducted in January-March 2015, with voluntary participation of 33 workers out of 42, who were providing healthcare services in the emergency department at Rize Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University and Erzincan University Medical Faculties, working in collaboration with hospitals run by the Ministry of Health, following triage training of the trainees, which had been organized by the Turkish Ministry of Health, Public Hospitals Institution, Division of International Relationships and Emergency Health Services. The group of participants consisted of nurses, health officers, and emergency medical technicians who had direct communication with the patients in the line of duty, and who were scheduled to provide triage services.
A questionnaire consisting of 19 questions on demographic characteristics and perspective on triage system was prepared.
The analysis of the data was performed with Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 17 software (SPSS v.17, Chicago, IL, USA). The acquired data were interpreted and the average, standard deviation, minimum-maximum values and frequency charts were used as descriptive statistics.
Thirty-three participants (25 females, 8 males) consisting of nurses, health officers, and emergency medical technicians, who were scheduled to provide triage service in emergency departments, were included in the study on a voluntary basis. These volunteers constituted %78.6 of the population of the study. The average age of the participants was 28.94±6.11 (range: 19-42) years. The average professional service period was 7 years 8 months (range: 1 month-21 years), whereas the average length of service in the emergency department was found to be 5 years 5 months (1 month-20 years). When the schools that the workers had attended for professional training was questioned, it was found that 14 participants were vocational health high school graduate. Demographic characteristics of the participants are shown in Table 1.
All participants in the study were in the opinion that emergency departments were overused by the patients. Fifteen participants reported that the reason for overuse was ignorance, 14 - short waiting time and 14 - shorter access time for investigations. When the percentage of patients who were admitted to the emergency department for causes complying with the emergency criteria was questioned, 18 person stated that 10% or less of the admissions were actual emergency cases. In order to avoid inappropriate use, 48.5% (n=16) of the workers suggested that triage practice should be used; 36.4% suggested that with more effective use of peripheral and second-level hospitals and with adopting cost sharing or payment strategies may non-emergency use of emergency departments may be avoided (Table 2).
Triage practice was suggested by 18 participants to reduce crowding in emergency departments. Eleven were indecisive on this subject. They considered that this practice was not effective; 6 participants had the opinion that the reason was the misperception of the community about emergency department, and 15.2% suggested that the reason was ineffective work of other healthcare organizations. Twelve participants suggested that triage was helpful in reducing workload, 13 subjects were indecisive on this subject. Particularly, 12 participants shared their concerns on that instead of reducing workload; triage practice might increase the verbal and physical violence in emergency departments (Table 3). Twenty-nine participants stated that they had faced problems with patients and/or patients’ relatives; 12 subjects reported facing this problem once in a week. Regarding the causes, 18 participants reported delayed consultations requested by emergency department physicians, 15 participants suggested waiting periods and insufficient number of workers While 26 participants, who were providing healthcare in the emergency department, considered that triage practice would increase the quality of patient care and 22 persons considered that it would increase the satisfaction of the healthcare workers, 24 persons had the opinion that patients would not get satisfaction with this practice (Table 3). 57.6% of the participants stated that triage practice should be performed by physicians for the prevention of verbal and physical violence encountered in emergency departments. Healthcare workers stated that they could have waited for an average duration of 28.6±21.9 minutes (minimum: 5, maximum: 90) in the emergency department, in case of any health problem they or their first degree relatives had encountered and depending on their reasons for admission.
The purpose of emergency medical care is stabilization before the critical health problems lead to disabilities or death in case of life-threatening condition or injury, whatever the age, language, religion, race, or location of the patient is (8). Similar to that in many communities, access to medical care has become a major social expectancy in life-threatening situations in our country. However, this situation prevents providing proper and timely healthcare, by leading to crowding in emergency departments (9). The best indicator of this situation in our country is the increasing number of emergency department admission in years (10). All the emergency department workers who participated in our study considered that emergency departments were being used unnecessarily and 54.5% of them had the opinion that 10% or less of all admissions to the emergency department was actual emergency cases.
In order to overcome crowding in emergency departments, which has started to be a worldwide public health issue, and to provide reliable health service, it is necessary to develop triage systems (11). In our study, 48.5% of the participants considered triage practice a precaution to avoid inappropriate admissions, whereas 54.5% suggested that crowding might be reduced and the quality of patient care might be improved, however, they had also the opinion that the satisfaction of patient/patient relatives might be decreased by this way.
One of the primary goals of the patients admitted to the emergency department is solving their distress through rapid processing (12). The circular issued by the Turkish Prime Ministry in 2008 led these areas providing service 365 days of the year and at all hours of the day and night (13) to be used by the community as areas open to inappropriate admissions. For example the patients sent from other hospitals try to be examined in emergency services they are not able to be examined when in polyclinics. In our study, emergency department workers considered that the cause of this in appropriateness was the ignorance of the community on this subject.
Thirty-three percent of the participants did not consider triage practice as a method that might solve the problem of crowding, due to misperception of the community about emergency, together with ineffective work of other healthcare centers. These concerns might be due to increased verbal and physical violence between workers and patients and/or their relatives. In the report published by the World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, and International Council of Nurse with the title “Workplace Violence in the Health Sector” in the year of 2002, it was stated that more than half of the health workers were exposed to violence during their active professional lives (14). 87.9% of our sample group stated that they had been exposed to physical or verbal violence in the emergency department, in one way or another. This result is consistent with studies conducted both in other countries and in our country (15,16). We suggest that the provided service being healthcare, together with the care given group being patients and/or patient relatives, who are under stress due to their diseases, expectancies being high and absence of effective institutional and legal regulations are best indicators of the problems encountered with the crowding in the emergency department (17).
The violence encountered during providing healthcare led our participants to suggest that triage practice should be implemented by physicians. Especially anxiety due to violence faced by workers leads to refraining from practices which may cause violence (18). We consider that the most important element for avoiding such undesirable incidents is community-based education and information. In this way, in-hospital mortality and morbidity can be prevented, using all the emergency care and treatment opportunities for the patient group identified as actual emergency cases (19,20).
When healthcare workers or their first-degree relatives experience any health problems, they expect to be examined within a period of 5 to 90 minutes. We consider that this was originated from the concern of the healthcare workers on the health problems being similar to that of all individuals within the society.
As a conclusion, implementation of triage practice in emergency departments is important in terms of both the care of patients who need the most urgent intervention and the quality of service provided by healthcare workers. However, community-based education as well as training of healthcare workers on this subject is a necessity.
Ethics Committee Approval: The study was approved by the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Faculty of Medicine Local Ethics Committee (protocol number: 46), Informed Consent: Consent form was filled out by all participants.
Peer-review: Internally peer-reviewed.
Surgical and Medical Practices: Ö.B., A.O.E., A.K., Concept: Ö.B., G.E., Design: Ö.B., Data Collection or Processing: Ö.B., A.K., A.O.E., Analysis or Interpretation: Ö.B., G.E., Literature Search: Ö.B., A.K., Writing: Ö.B., G.E.
Conflict of Interest: No conflict of interest was declared by the authors.
Financial Disclosure: The authors declared that this study received no financial support.
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