Triage codes: a predictor of nursing care time in the emergency department
This thesis explores triage code as a predictor of direct nursing care time, thus its potential usefulness in a model for calculating and allocating nurse requirements in emergency departments. A framework for nursing work is proposed. This framework is based on the works of O'Brien-Pallas, Irvine, Peereboom, and Murray (1997) and Houser (2003). It suggests that the structures of environmental complexity, nursing characteristics, patient nursing complexity, and patient medical condition and severity, impact on the processes of direct and indirect nursing care to affect patient outcomes. A prospective, non-experimental study was undertaken to examine the relationship between direct nursing care time and triage code. Six potential confounding variables were selected for this study: length of stay, age, ethnicity, sex, complaint type, and discharge category. Data were collected for 261 visits over a three day period in one New Zealand emergency department. Patient visits averaged 200 minutes. The mean direct nursing care time per visit was 49 minutes. On average, patients with more urgent triage codes, longer length of stay, or who were not discharged, received more direct nursing care. The model developed predicted 49% of variation in direct nursing care time (p < .05) related to triage code (16%), length of stay (31%) and disposition category (2%).Further exploration of the proposed framework has potential to develop a model allowing managers to identify nurse staffing required for optimal nursing care in emergency departments.