Understanding Emergency Department Triage 18 April


Across Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District our emergency departments (ED) operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for people who need urgent medical attention.

Nurse triaging patients within emergency

Nurse triaging patients in emergency

Our highly trained staff provide life-saving and critical care using a triage system for patients presenting to an ED. The triage system allocates a category based on the time in which a patient needs treatment.

When you arrive in an ED a triage nurse will assess your condition and allocate the priority of your care into one of five triage categories: resuscitation, emergency, urgent, semi-urgent or non-urgent.

Triage category 1: Resuscitation

People who need treatment immediately as they are critically ill and have an immediately life-threatening condition. These patients would probably be suffering from a critical injury or cardiac arrest.

Triage category 2: Emergency

People who have an imminently life-threatening condition. Patients with serious chest pains, difficulty in breathing or severe fractures are included in this category.

Triage category 3: Urgent

People who have a potentially life-threatening condition. Patients in this category are suffering from severe illness, bleeding heavily from cuts, have major fractures or are severely dehydrated.

Triage category 4: Semi-Urgent

People who have a potentially serious condition. Patients in this category have less severe symptoms or injuries, such as a foreign body in the eye, sprained ankle, migraine or earache.

Triage category 5: Non-Urgent

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

Nepean Hospital’s Director of Emergency, Dr Cindy Hastings says the triage system is in place to help us care for the most seriously unwell patients first.

“We are a caring team and will always tend to people who present to our ED but we must prioritise our patients using the triage system to ensure the best possible health outcomes for everyone,” says Cindy.

“During busy times, people with less urgent conditions will experience longer wait times when there are large numbers of seriously unwell patients being prioritised for emergency care.”

Emergency Departments are there for people who are in urgent need of lifesaving care.

If you have a non-life threatening illness or injury (triage category 4 or 5) such as a cough, nausea, sprain or minor cut there are health care alternatives available for you to consider.

The below options may help you decide:

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