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Tom Sharon
Three factors - triage, waiting time, and capacity


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The Emergency Waiting Game

THE EMERGENCY ROOM is the place where most of us enter the health-care system. Many are there with undiagnosed life-threatening conditions when they first arrive. Their survival depends on how fast and accurately the staffers diagnose and treat their problems. Most emergency rooms can at times get so crammed full that they become unsafe. Even an anthill will implode if you put too many ants in it.

Accordingly, there are three determining factors in getting -or preventing- a good result in the emergency department. These are triage, waiting time, and capacity. First, the overlying problem is that at most times in any emergency room there is only one physician for dozens of people. The nurse-to-patient ratio is usually about fifty to one, counting those in the waiting room. Thus it is not possible to take care of everyone without making people wait for several hours. That is why one of the registered nurses must provide triage services. Triage is a nursing assessment made to determine the level of urgency of the patients' need for medical intervention -who can wait and who is likely to die in the waiting-room.

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