What is Triage?

In an emergency, someone has to take control of the situation. Triage is the process of sorting through patients to decide who needs care right away and who can wait until later. This system is used in health care settings as well as natural and man-made disasters. It takes a special type of person to quell their emotions and calmly assess an upsetting situation. However, it’s necessary for delivering care to those who need it the most. If you have the right set of interests and personality traits, a career in triaging may be a good fit.

Where Does Triaging Take Place?

Whenever emergency resources are needed, personnel must determine how they should be allocated. This means figuring out who is:

  • the most injured
  • the most in need of housing or food
  • at greatest risk of developing medical complications

Disaster scenes are often managed by triaging the areas with greatest need so that emergency workers can be sent there first. Hospital emergency rooms use nurses to sort patients and prioritize pressing issues like chest pain or active bleeding over minor complaints like coughing or headaches. Some health care systems are experimenting with sending trained professionals directly to the scene of medical emergencies to determine whether patients should be sent to the hospital or not. In the United Kingdom, sending social workers alongside police officers to respond to mental health complaints resulted in a 50% decrease in the number of psychiatric detentions.

Resource: 25 Great Healthcare Management Programs in Urban/Metro Areas

What Are Some Triage-Related Jobs?

Nurses are the most prevalent in triaging work. This is because registered nurses have the training to identify emergency health care issues. These nurses work in:

  • hospitals
  • community settings
  • call centers

There is a growing national shortage of qualified nurses in the United States. The wages, benefits and demand for nurses willing to work in triage-related jobs are sure to increase. Other medical professions can work in emergency sorting roles. First responders like paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) often have to choose which patients to treat first. In some hospitals, physicians are involved in initially assessing patients, especially trauma victims.

What Traits Do I Need to Be Good at Triaging?

The most important characteristic for working an emergency sorting system is the ability to suppress your emotions. It’s challenging to see a patient bleeding or a child crying, but you must focus on their overall health, not how they make you feel. Until you’ve analyzed the situation, you need to be able to:

  • balance your medical knowledge
  • stay aware of the available resources
  • ignore requests from the public

What Is an Example of a Sorting System?

One of the simplest ways to start triaging patients or victims in a mass casualty event is the color-coded system. Emergency workers use a tag or marker to indicate the status of each person they encounter. Typically:

  • a red mark indicates a patient who needs immediate treatment
  • yellow is for a somewhat-urgent case
  • green means someone who can seek treatment on their own or wait for more urgent cases

Sorting through injured patients is not for everyone, but it is a necessary part of a functioning health care system. Without the courageous efforts of triage workers, emergencies would be deadlier.