Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Triage Definition:

To sort or choose, especially as a process used to determine the urgency or need for emergency care based on a preliminary assessment or observation.

A process in place in hospitals to sort and prioritize incoming emergency ward patients.

Many hospitals use a three category system of triage: emergent, urgent and non-urgent.

In Latin, Justice Lax wrote of triage in the context of a childrens' hospital:

"Triage means to sort or choose. It is a process used to determine the urgency or need for emergency care based on the assessment findings.

"The initial assessment of the ... patient involves a systematic process that recognizes life-threatening conditions, identifies injuries and determines priorities of care. It uses critical thinking to make a decision on acuity. Triage nurses do not make diagnoses, but use nursing and medical knowledge to classify patients so that a patient with a more serious condition is seen before one whose condition is less serious.

"A triage assessment ... is expected to be a quick and accurate assessment of a patient’s needs in order to make a professional judgment as to whether the needs are emergent, urgent or non-urgent. A triage assessment is obviously an important step in the assessment of a patient who presents at an emergency department. In order to arrive at a decision as to an appropriate triage classification, a triage nurse is expected to know the signs and symptoms of various diseases that might affect classification. In the case of infants and young children, this is particularly important. Children are resilient, but they are also at risk of rapidly decompensating with few signs of impending arrest....

"There are four components of ... triage: (1) initial observational assessment or across-the-room-look, made as the child is brought to the triage station; (2) initial assessment (primary and secondary); (3) history; and (4) triage or acuity decision."

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