Nonemergent Patients in the Emergency Department: An Ethnographic Study




Background: Triage in the interactive atmosphere of the emergency department (ED) has been described as complex and challenging. Nonemergent ED visits have been accompanied by ethical and legal conflicts. Objectives: The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of ED nurses’ practice regarding triage of nonemergent patients. Patients and Methods: Focused micro-ethnography based on Spradley’s developmental research sequence (DRS) was used. This study was conducted in an emergency department. Data was collected through complete participant observations along with formal and informal interviews, and then analyzed using DRS. Results: Nine key informants were interviewed formally. Four main categories emerged from the nurses’ culture: nonemergent patient as an uninvited guest, nonemergent patient as an elephant in a dark room, nonemergent patient as an aggressive client, and being nonemergency unless at risk of death. Conclusions: Providing care in the emergency department is significantly affected by nonemergent patients, as the emergency department is a place for critically ill patients thus awareness training program is recommended.