Medical emergency teams: a strategy for improving patient care and nursing work environments


  • Sanjay Galhotra MBBS MHA,

  • Carol C. Scholle MSN RN,

  • Mary Amanda Dew PhD,

  • Nicolette C. Mininni MEd CCRN RN,

  • Gilles Clermont MSc MD,

  • Michael A. DeVita MD MPH

Carol C. Scholle,
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital,
200 Lothrop Street,
Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Aim.  This paper reports a study of nurses’ perceptions about medical emergency teams and their impact on patient care and the nursing work environment.

Background.  In many acute care hospitals, nurses can summon emergency help by calling a medical emergency team, which is a team of expert critical care professionals adept at handling patient crisis scenarios. Critical care nurses form the core of such teams. In addition, of all the healthcare professionals, nurses are the ones who most often need and call for medical emergency team assistance.

Methods.  A simple anonymous questionnaire distributed amongst 300 staff nurses at two sites of an acute care teaching hospital in the United States of America in mid-January of 2005.

Results.  A total of 248 nurses responded to the survey (response rate = 82·7%). Ninety-three per cent of the nurses reported that medical emergency teams improved patient care and 84% felt that they improved the nursing work environment. Veteran nurses (with at least 10 years of experience) and new nurses (<1 year's experience) were more likely to perceive an improvement in patient care than other nurses (P = 0·025). Nurses who had called a medical emergency team on more than one occasion were more likely to value their ability to call a team (P = 0·002). Nearly sixty-five per cent of respondents said they would consider institutional medical emergency team response as a factor when seeking a new job in the future. Only 7% suggested a change in the team response process, and 4% suggested a change in activation criteria.

Conclusions.  Most nurses surveyed had a favourable opinion of the medical emergency team. Our findings suggest that other institutions should consider implementing a medical emergency team programme as a strategy to improve patient care and nurse working environment.