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Nurse Triage: Evolution of a Solution, Part 1 of 2
by Trey Marks
Etymologically, the term triage is derivative of the French word trier, meaning “to sort.” By extension, nurse triage is a method of sorting patients. More specifically, nurse triage is a system by which medical patients’ treatments are prioritized by the severity of their medical conditions.
Nurse triage emerged in the early 1800’s as a system for attending to wounded soldiers. Historically, French surgeon Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey is the individual attributed to developing triage as a practice. As Napoleon continuously waged his many wars, Larrey noticed that the system for treating injured soldiers was inefficient. Soldiers were attended to in the order they were brought in: first come, first served. Unfortunately, this resulted in the loss of many lives. Larrey hypothesized that if soldiers were prioritized according to the severity of their condition, maybe lives would be saved. Larrey wrote, “Those who are dangerously wounded should receive the first attention…they who are injured in a less degree may wait until their brethren-in-arms are operated on and dressed, otherwise the latter would not survive.”
Since Larrey’s realization, nurse triage has been utilized in different venues. It was no longer exclusive to the military medical field. Nurse triage began to appear in emergency sectors of hospitals within the U.S. by the early 1900s. It was only in the latter half of the twentieth-century that it became nationally adopted. Nurse triage revolutionized the efficiency of how medical service providers cared for their patients.
In addition, the methods for nurse triage evolved in three stages as technology advanced: (1) the telephone, (2) the computer (3) and the Internet. The first nurse triage call center was established in the late 1960’s. This allowed for a more efficient system of providing faster medical assistance. Then, the mid 1980’s brought about the availability of computerized guidelines and documentation. Finally, Darwinism revealed itself as nurse triage adapted to the Internet Age. The Internet allowed nurse triage to make use of remote nursing agents. As such, it is now possible to apply cloud computing in conjunction with remote nurse triage systems. In addition, integrated call recording and full integration with electronic medical records is a reality.