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Hospital Triage

How Triage Works | The Five Triage Categories | What To Ask And Tell The Triage Nurse

How Triage Works

In our hospitals, triage is done by a specialised Triage Nurse as soon as possible after a patient arrives in the Emergency Department.
 
Patients are triaged on the basis of the speed with which they need medical attention. The Triage Nurse allocates a triage category to a patient based on the statement:
 
"This patient should wait for medical assessment and treatment no longer than..."
 
Most NSW public hospitals use this triage scale for patients presenting to their Emergency Departments. Hospitals aim to achieve certain levels of performance (or benchmarks) with respect to the amount of time patients wait to be seen in Emergency Departments.

The Five Triage Categories

Triage category Description
1 People who need to have treatment immediately or within two minutes are categorised as having an immediately life-threatening condition.

People in this group are critically ill and require immediate attention. Most would have arrived in Emergency Department by Ambulance. They would probably be suffering from a critical injury or cardiac arrest.
2 People who need to have treatment within 10 minutes are categorised as having an imminently life-threatening condition.

People in this group suffer from a critical illness or are in very severe pain. People with serious chest pains, difficulty in breathing and severe fractures are included in this group.
3 People who need to have treatment within 30 minutes are categorised as having a potentially life-threatening condition.

People in this group suffer from severe illness, bleed heavily from cuts, have major fractures, or be dehydrated.
4 People who need to have treatment within one hour are categorised as having a potentially serious condition.

People in this group have less severe symptoms or injuries, such as a foreign body in the eye, sprained ankle, migraine or earache.
5 People who need to have treatment within two hours are categorised as having a less urgent condition.

People in this group have minor illnesses or symptoms that may have been present for more than a week, such as rashes or minor aches and pains.

What To Ask And Tell The Triage Nurse

Can I eat or drink anything?
Sometimes you should not eat or drink anything while you are waiting to see a doctor because you may need to have a test or an operation which requires your stomach to be empty.
 
Can I get some pain relief?
Tell the triage nurse if you are in pain while waiting or if you feel your condition is getting worse.
 
Medications
Let the triage nurse know what medications you are on and when you need to take them.
 
Can I contact anyone?
Ask the triage nurse if you should contact family, relatives or friends to let them know you are in Emergency.
 
Interpreters
The staff can arrange an interpreter for you, if necessary.
 
Can I smoke?
All NSW Public Hospitals are smoke-free environments.

This web page is managed and authorised by Demand & Performance Evaluation of the NSW Department of Health. Last updated: 30 March, 2009

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