Some types of nurses are known as triage nurses. Triage nurses in an emergency room or emergency department have a very important role. They are to assess the patients who come into an emergency room and assign them a level of urgency for the care they are in need of receiving. Essentially, a triage nurse determines who gets treated first.
Generally, there are five levels of triage. Level one is coding, meaning you have ceased breathing or having a heartbeat. Level two is imminent threat to life or limb, such as heart attack, stroke, severe injury to extremity. Level three is a patient is going to require two or more resources to treat, meaning a department which is called in to assist with a case such as a lab, cat scan, cardiologist. Level four is one resource, as noted above. Level five requires zero resources.
For trauma injuries there are only three levels. Level one is the most serious which is a very serious injury such as a gunshot wound to the chest. Level two is the second most serious, such as a crushing injury. And all others are not categorized into a level but are still serious.
When a triage nurse improperly triages a patient, it can result in a patient not getting the immediate level of care that they need to safe their life or limb. For instance, if a triage nurse takes a trauma patient with a crushing injury and does not categorize the patient, the patient will not get immediate treatment. However the patient may end up bleeding out and suffering a serious and life threatening. This is malpractice on the triage nurse.
If a triage nurse commits medical malpractice, that means that the hospital or other employer will also be liable for medical malpractice. This is through the master-servant doctrine of vicarious liability.
Triage is one of the most important points of an emergency room. The ability to accurately and appropriate assess the level of care that a patient needs is crucial to properly operating an emergency department, treating patients, and to saving lives.
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