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Our objective was to determine whether the addition of a broad-scope nurse practitioner (NP) would improve emergency department (ED) wait times, ED lengths of stay (LOS) and left-without-treatment (LWOT) rates. We hypothesized that the addition of a broad-scope NP during weekday ED shifts would result in shorter patient wait times, reduced LOS and fewer patients leaving the ED without treatment.
This prospective observational study was conducted in a busy urban free-standing community ED. Intervention shifts, with NP coverage, were compared with control shifts (similar shifts with emergency physicians [EPs] working independently). Primary outcomes included patient wait times, ED LOS and LWOT rates. Patient demographics, triage category, the provider seen, the time to provider and ED LOS were captured using an electronic database.
The addition of an NP was associated with a 12% increase in patient volume per shift and a 7-minute reduction in mean wait times for low-acuity patients. However, overall patient wait times and ED LOS did not differ between intervention and control shifts. During intervention shifts, EPs saw a smaller proportion of low-acuity patients and there was a trend toward a lower proportion of LWOT patients (11.9% v. 13.7%, p = 0.10).
Adding a broad-scope NP to the ED staff may lower the proportion of patients who leave without treatment, reduce the proportion of low-acuity patients seen by EPs and expedite throughput for a subgroup of less urgent patients. However, it did not reduce overall wait times or ED LOS in this setting.
Our objective was to compare the emergency care provided by a nurse practitioner (NP) with that provided by emergency physicians (EPs), to identify emergency department (ED) patients appropriate for autonomous NP practice and to acquire data to facilitate the development of the clinical scope of practice recommendations for ED practice for NPs.
Using a comprehensive 3-part process, we selected and hired the best NP from 12 applicants. The NP was oriented to the operations of our free-standing community ED and incorporated in the care team, working in real time with EP preceptors during a 6-month, prospective clinical assessment comparing NP care with EP care. ED preceptors reviewed every case in real time with the NP and completed an explicit evaluation form to determine whether NP assessment, investigation, treatment and disposition were “all equivalent to emergency physician care” (AEEPC) or whether they differed. The proportion of AEEPC interactions was determined for 23 patient presentation categories. Our a priori assumption was that a patient presentation category might be suitable for autonomous NP practice if 50% of NP encounters in that category were rated as AEEPC. Descriptive data were presented for patient case mix, teaching domains and time criteria.
Eighty-three NP shifts and 711 patient encounters were evaluated by 21 EP preceptors. The NP saw a median of 8 patients per shift. In 43% of encounters, NP care was AEEPC. Highest AEEPC rates were found in the patient follow-up categories general follow-up (55.4%), diagnostic imaging (91.7%) and microbiology laboratory results (87.6%). NP scores over 50% were also seen for lacerations (63.6%) and isolated sore throats (53%). With teaching, NP performance improved over time.
With the exception of follow up–related complaints, simple lacerations and isolated sore throats, NP care differed substantially from EP care. Although NPs with extensive emergency experience and training might ultimately be able to function as autonomous ED care providers, Canadian EDs currently developing job descriptions for emergency NPs should focus on a model of collaborative practice with EPs.
Consultation is a common and important aspect of emergency department (ED) care. We prospectively examined the consultation rates, the admission rates of consulted patients, the emergency physician (EP) disposition prediction of consulted patients and the difficult consultations rates in 2 tertiary care hospitals.
Attending EPs recorded consultations during 5 randomly selected shifts over an 8-week period using standardized forms. Subsequent computer outcome data were extracted for each patient encounter, as well as demographic data from the ED during days in which there was a study shift.
During 105 clinical shifts, 1930 patients were managed by 21 EPs (median 17 patients per shift; interquartile range 14–23). Overall, at least 1 consultation was requested in 38% of patients. More than one-half of the patients (54.3%) who received a consultation were admitted to the hospital. Consultation proportions were similar between males and females (51% v. 49%, p = 0.03). Consultations occurred more frequently for patients who were older, had higher acuity presentations, arrived during daytime hours or arrived by ambulance. The proportion of agreement between the EP's and consultant's opinion on the need for admission was 89% (κ = 0.77, 95% confidence interval 0.72–0.83). Overall, 92% of patents received 1 consultation. Six percent of the consultations were perceived as “difficult” by the EPs (defined as the EP's subjective impression of difficulties with consultation times, accessibility and availability of consultants, and the interaction with consultants or disposition issues).
Consultation is a common process in the ED. It often results in admission and is predictable based on simple patient factors. Because of perceived difficulty with consultations, strategies to improve the EP consultation process in the ED seem warranted.
Some low-acuity emergency department (ED) presentations are considered convenience visits and potentially avoidable with improved access to primary care services. This study assessed the frequency and determinants of patients' efforts to access alternative care before ED presentation.
Patients aged 17 years and older were randomly selected from 2 urban ED sites in Edmonton. Survey data were collected on use and characteristics of alternative care before the ED visit. Information was also collected on patient demographics and factors influencing their perception of whether the ED was the best care option.
Of the 1389 patients approached, 905 (65%) completed the survey and data from 894 participants were analyzed. Sixty-one percent reported that they sought alternative care before visiting the ED. Eighty-nine of the patients who attempted alternative access before the ED visit felt that the ED was their best care option. Results of the multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that injury presentation, living arrangements, smoking status and whether or not patients had a family practitioner were predictors for seeking alternative care before visiting the ED.
Most ambulatory patients attempt to look for other sources of care before presenting to the ED. Despite this attempted access to alternative care, while patients wait for ED care, they perceive that the ED is their best care option at that point in time.
To identify the level of consensus among a group of Canadian emergency department (ED) experts on the importance of a set of indicators to document ED overcrowding.
A 2-round Delphi survey was conducted from February 2005 to April 2005, with a multi-disciplinary group of 38 Canadian experts in various aspects of ED operations who rated the relevance of 36 measures and ranked their relative importance as indicators of ED overcrowding.
The response rates for the first and second rounds were 84% and 87%, respectively. The most important indicator identified by the experts was the percentage of the ED occupied by in-patients (mean on a 7-point Likert-type scale 6.53, standard deviation [SD] 0.80). The other 9 indicators, in order of the importance attributed, were the total number of ED patients (mean 6.35, SD 0.75), the total time in the ED (mean 6.16, SD 1.04), the percentage of time that the ED was at or above capacity (mean 6.16, SD 1.08), the overall bed occupancy (mean 6.19, SD 0.93), the time from bed request to bed assignment (mean 6.06, SD 1.08), the time from triage to care (mean 5.84, SD 1.08) the physician satisfaction (mean 5.84, SD 1.22), the time from bed availability to ward transfer (mean 5.53, SD 1.72) and the number of staffed acute care beds (mean 5.53, SD 1.57).
Ten clinically important measures were prioritized by the participants as relevant indicators of ED overcrowding. Indicators derived from consensus techniques have face validity, but their metric properties must be tested to ensure their effectiveness for identifying ED overcrowding in different settings.
Despite the frequency of acute asthma in the emergency department (ED) and the availability of guidelines, significant practice variation exists. Asthma care maps (ACMs) may standardize treatment. This study examined the use of an ACM to determine its effects on patient management in a regional hospital.
Patients aged 2 to 65 years who presented to the ED with a primary diagnosis of acute asthma were enrolled in a prospective study that took place 5 months before (pre) and 5 months after (post) ACM implementation. Research assistants using a standardized questionnaire abstracted data through direct patient interviews and then followed up at 2 weeks with a standardized telephone interview.
Overall, 71 pre patients and 70 post patients were enrolled. Characteristics in both groups were similar. The care map was used in 100% of the cases during the post period. The mean length of stay in the ED for the pre, compared with the post period, was similar (2 h 14 min v. 2 h 25 min; p = 0.60), as were admission rates (11% v. 9%; p = 0.59). Systemic corticosteroid use was similar (62% v. 57%; p = 0.56); however, the total number of β-agonists (2 v. 4 treatments; p = 0.002) and anticholinergics (1 v. 2 treatments; p < 0.001) administered in the ED was higher during the post period. Prescriptions for oral (73% v. 60%; p = 0.15) and inhaled (78% v. 78%; p = 0.98) corticosteroids at discharge remained the same. Relapse rates at follow-up were unchanged (29% v. 34%; p = 0.52).
This study provides evidence that implementation of an ACM increased acute bronchodilator use; however, prescribing preventive medications did not increase. Further research is required to evaluate other strategies to improve asthma care by emergency physicians.
Emergency department (ED) triage prioritizes patients based on urgency of care, and the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) is the national standard. We describe the inter-rater agreement and manual overrides of nurses using a CTAS-compliant web-based triage tool (eTRIAGE) for 2 different intensities of staff training.
This prospective study was conducted in an urban tertiary care ED. In phase 1, eTRIAGE was deployed after a 3-hour training course for 24 triage nurses who were asked to share this knowledge during regular triage shifts with colleagues who had not received training (n = 77). In phase 2, a targeted group of 8 triage nurses underwent further training with eTRIAGE. In each phase, patients were assessed first by the duty triage nurse and then by a blinded independent study nurse, both using eTRIAGE. Inter-rater agreement was calculated using kappa (weighted κ) statistics.
In phase 1, 569 patients were enrolled with 513 (90.2%) complete records; 577 patients were enrolled in phase 2 with 555 (96.2%) complete records. Inter-rater agreement during phase 1 was moderate (weighted κ = 0.55; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.49–0.62); agreement improved in phase 2 (weighted κ = 0.65; 95% CI 0.60–0.70). Manual overrides of eTRIAGE scores were infrequent (approximately 10%) during both periods.
Agreement between study nurses and duty triage nurses, both using eTRIAGE, was moderate to good, with a trend toward improvement with additional training. Triage overrides were infrequent. Continued attempts to refine the triage process and training appear warranted.
Relatively little is known about the ability of Canadian emergency departments (EDs) and the federal, provincial and territorial governments to quantify ED activity. The objectives of this study were to determine the use of electronic patient data in Canadian EDs, the accessibility of provincial data on ED visits, and to identify the data elements and current methods of ED information system (EDIS) data collection nationally.
Surveys were conducted of the following 3 groups: 1) all ED directors of Canadian hospitals located in communities of >10 000 people, 2) all electronic EDIS vendors, and 3) representatives from the ministries of health from 13 provincial and territorial jurisdictions who had knowledge of ED data collection.
Of the 243 ED directors contacted, 158 completed the survey (65% response rate) and 39% of those reported using an electronic EDIS. All 11 EDIS vendor representatives responded. Most of the vendors provide a similar package of basic EDIS options, with add-on features. All 13 provincial or territorial government representatives completed the survey. Nine (69%) provinces and territories collect ED data, however the source of this information varies. Five provinces and territories collect triage data, and 3 have a comprehensive, jurisdiction-wide, population-based ED database. Thirty-nine percent of EDs in larger Canadian communities track patients using electronic methods. A variety of EDIS vendor options are available and used in Canada.
The wide variation in methods and in data collected presents serious barriers to meaningful comparison of ED services across the country. It is little wonder that the majority of information regarding ED overcrowding in Canada is anecdotal, when the collection of this critical health information is so variable. There is an urgent need to place the collection of ED information on the provincial and national agenda and to ensure that the collection of this information consistent, comprehensive and mandatory.
Almost all North American cities have first responder programs. To date there is no published documentation of the roles first responders play, nor of the frequency and type of interventions they perform. Many urban stakeholders question the utility and safety of routinely dispatching large vehicles emergently to calls that may not require their services. Real world data on first responder interventions will help emergency medical services (EMS) directors and planners determine manpower requirements, assess training needs, and optimize dispatch protocols to reduce the rate of inappropriate “code 3” (lights and siren) responses.
Our objectives were to determine how often first responders arrive first on scene, to estimate the time interval between first response and EMS response, and to examine the frequency and type of interventions performed by first responders.
In a prospective observational study, trained observers were assigned to fire department first responder (FDFR) units. These observers recorded on-scene times for FDFR and EMS units, and documented the performance of first responder interventions.
FDFRs arrived first on scene in 49% of code 3 calls. They performed critical interventions in 18% of calls attended and 36% of calls where they arrived first. Oxygen administration was the most frequent critical intervention, yet occult hypoxemia was common and compliance with oxygen administration protocols was poor.
First responders perform critical interventions during a minority of code 3 calls, even when “critical” is defined generously. Many “lights and siren” dispatches are unnecessary. Future research should attempt to identify dispatch criteria that more accurately predict the need for first responder intervention. First responder training and continuous quality improvement (CQI) should focus on interventions that are performed with some regularity, particularly oxygen administration.
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