Invoking the “expectant” triage category: Can we make the paradigm shift?
Keywords:disaster medicine, pediatrics, triage
Medical triage is the process of determining the priority of patients' treatments based on the severity of their condition. Triage provides the healthcare provider the ability to identify the most urgent cases first, with the goal of maximizing each individual patient's outcome. When resources are challenged, such as in a disaster, the healthcare provider's goal becomes to maximize overall population survival. In this context, the triage process must identify patients who require resources urgently, as well as those who have the best chance of survival.
The revised triage process must include an “expectant management” category, to identify patients for whom further resuscitation is delayed, as they have a poor chance of survival and require significant resources. The paradigm shift that is required in these circumstances can be challenging for pediatric healthcare providers. Many may find themselves unable to change the decision-making process that would favor overall survival and best outcome for the most members of a population, while potentially not addressing the most sick or injured because they have low chances of survival. We hypothesized that participating in a multiprofessional ethics-based educational session regarding making difficult triage decisions may improve participants’ perceived ability to use the “expectant” triage category in a disaster setting. Participants took part in an ethics-based educational session and completed a pre- and postsurvey. Results demonstrated a significant change in the participants’ self-perceived comfort level using the disaster triage tools and improved their confidence to use the expectant triage category in a disaster setting.
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