December is usually a busy time of year with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, people preparing for time with friends and family, gift giving and ringing in the New Year.
While it’s unlikely anybody’s holiday planning includes getting sick or some other urgent medical need, hospitals are 24/7 operation and are often the back up when other health care options are unavailable. People get sick or injured any time of year and emergencies don’t take vacations.
Many of us have visited the Emergency Department and have been triaged by a Registered Nurse (RN), but few probably understand what goes into ‘triaging’ a patient.
“Triage is a sorting process for patients coming to the emergency department” explains Ashley Piekarski, Interim Clinical Nurse Educator/RN, Emergency Department. “Simply put, the triage system determines how quickly patients are seen depending on how severe their illness and symptoms are, their medical history and any other relevant information.”
Triage nurses are specially trained to assess patients using the Canadian Triage & Acuity Scale (CTAS).
CTAS is a five-level triage system:
Level 1 – RESUSCITATION
Condition threatens life or limb and requires immediate, aggressive intervention.
Level 2 – EMERGENT
There is a potential threat to life or limb that requires rapid intervention.
Level 3 – URGENT
There is a potential to progress to a serious problem requiring emergency intervention.
Level 4 – LESS URGENT
Factors of age and distress are considered. There is a potential for deterioration or complications.
Level 5 – NON URGENT
Conditions that may be acute but non-urgent as well as conditions which may be part of a chronic problem or without evidence of deterioration. Interventions for some of these can be delayed.During the holidays when many primary care offices and walk in clinic hours are closed or reduced, the number of Level 4 visits to the Emergency Department increase (examples are slips and falls, coughs and colds, strains and sprains). Add flu season and the busy holiday season to this mix and that can mean long wait times.
One way to avoid non-urgent visits to Emergency is to check out this link of the holiday availability of walk in clinics for our area, and other options like Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000. As always, in an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911.
If you do need to come to the Emergency Department over the holidays, here are some things you can do to have a more comfortable wait:
If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect yourself and family from the influenza virus. If you do feel sick, be mindful of visiting family/friends and consider staying home to prevent spreading illnesses to others.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday.