Summertime brings warm weather, beach trips, and outdoor activities as families enjoy vacations. Yet, there is a noticeable spike in emergency room visits during the warm summer months between Memorial Day to Labor Day. In fact, some studies suggest that visits to the emergency room increase by about 27% during this time. While no one anticipates getting hurt on summer vacation, accidents do happen. Read this case study on a common summer vacation concern for families and how having access to triage nurses can use standardized protocols to reduce unnecessary emergency visits.
While enjoying the summer, it can be easy to forget to prepare for sun exposure, which could lead to heat-related illnesses. A new study released shows teens and adults 15 to 34 years old are the most likely to visit the emergency department for heat-related illness. However, heat-related illness from sun exposure can affect anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rashes, and sunburns.
Sunburn Case Study*:
Wendy is on vacation with her family at a beach resort, lots of sun and warm weather. She notices her 12-year-old son is complaining of dizziness, a headache, fatigue, and muscle cramps. He isn’t eating well this evening and says he feels nauseated. He is sweating a lot and seems a little “off” and slower to respond than usual, but still oriented.
Wendy contacts TriageLogic to get a nurse to assess his condition, even though she is away from home. The assessment begins with the nurse asking the essential questions, such as when did this start, is he healthy, any medications he is currently taking, and then the most critical question of the call, “What was he doing right before these symptoms started?” The mother relays that they had been out at the beach all day and he was swimming and running up and down in the hot sand. He didn’t stop to drink many fluids and certainly didn’t want to rest in the shade. The weather that day was in the high 90’s.
The triage nurse recognizes this child’s symptoms as those of possible heat exhaustion and uses Dr. Schmitt protocols and clinical guidelines for that condition. She uses the protocols to rule out the most emergent signs of seizures, confusion, shock symptoms, or high fevers. The nurse then gives Wendy home care advice and warning symptoms to look out for that may require an emergency room visit. Wendy then hangs up, reassured that her child would be okay.
Providing patients with a qualified telephone triage nurse prevents patients from improperly self-diagnosing and ensures that they get the treatment they need. Having access to a triage nurse offers reassurance and guidance. Also, some callers do not realize the severity of their symptoms, thus delaying care for potentially life-threatening conditions. Studies show that about 1 in every 14 callers thought that their symptom was not severe before the nurse sending them to an emergency. Triage nurses play an essential role in evaluating patient caller symptoms and determining the best level of care to address those symptoms.
*Names and identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.