Major-incident triage ensures effective emergency care and utilization of resources. Prehospital emergency care providers are often the first medical professionals to arrive at any major incident and should be competent in primary triage. However, various factors (including level of training) influence their triage performance.
The aim of this study was to determine the difference in major-incident triage performance between different training levels of prehospital emergency care providers in South Africa utilizing the Triage Sieve algorithm.
This was a cross-sectional study involving differently trained prehospital providers: Advanced Life Support (ALS); Intermediate Life Support (ILS); and Basic Life Support (BLS). Participants wrote a validated 20-question pre-test before completing major-incident training. Two post-tests were also completed: a 20-question written test and a three-question face-to-face evaluation. Outcomes measured were triage accuracy and duration of triage. The effect of level of training, gender, age, previous major-incident training, and duration of service were determined.
A total of 129 prehospital providers participated. The mean age was 33.4 years and 65 (50.4%) were male. Most (n=87; 67.4%) were BLS providers. The overall correct triage score pre-training was 53.9% (95% CI, 51.98 to 55.83), over-triage 31.4% (95% CI, 29.66 to 33.2), and under-triage 13.8% (95% CI, 12.55 to 12.22). Post-training, the overall correct triage score increased to 63.6% (95% CI, 61.72 to 65.44), over-triage decreased to 17.9% (95% CI, 16.47 to 19.43), and under-triage increased to 17.8% (95% CI, 16.40 to 19.36). The ALS providers had both the highest likelihood of a correct triage score post-training (odds ratio 1.21; 95% CI, 0.96-1.53) and the shortest duration of triage (median three seconds, interquartile range two to seven seconds; P=.034). Participants with prior major-incident training performed better (P=.001).
Accuracy of major-incident triage across all levels of prehospital providers in South Africa is less than optimal with non-significant differences post-major-incident training. Prior major-incident training played a significant role in triage accuracy indicating that training should be an ongoing process. Although ALS providers were the quickest to complete triage, this difference was not clinically significant. The BLS and ILS providers with major-incident training can thus be utilized for primary major-incident triage allowing ALS providers to focus on more clinical roles.
AlenyoAN, SmithWP, McCaulM, Van HovingDJ. A Comparison Between Differently Skilled Prehospital Emergency Care Providers in Major-Incident Triage in South Africa. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018;33(6):575–580.