• emergency care;
  • next of kin;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • satisfaction;
  • triage

Aims and objectives.  To investigate the factors that influence satisfaction with emergency care among individuals accompanying patients to the emergency department and explore agreement between the triage nurse and accompanying person regarding urgency.

Background.  Many patients seeking treatment in hospital are escorted by an accompanying person, who may be a friend, family member or carer. Several factors influence patient satisfaction with emergency care, including waiting time and time to treatment. It is also influenced by provision of information and interpersonal relations between staff and patients. Research on satisfaction has focused on the patient perspective; however, individuals who accompany patients are potential consumers. Knowledge about the ways accompanying persons perceive the patient's medical condition and level of urgency will identify areas for improved patient outcomes.

Design and methods.  A prospective cross-sectional survey with a consecutive sample (n = 128 response rate 83·7%) was undertaken. Data were collected in an Australian metropolitan teaching hospital with about 32,000 visits to the emergency department each year. The Consumer Emergency Satisfaction Scale was used to measure satisfaction with nursing care.

Results.  Significant differences in perceptions of patient urgency between accompanying persons and nurses were found. Those people accompanying patients of a higher urgency were significantly more satisfied than those accompanying patients of a lower urgency. These results were independent of real waiting time or the accompanying person's knowledge of the patients’ triage status. In addition, older accompanying persons were more satisfied with emergency care than younger accompanying persons.

Discussion.  Little attention has been paid to the social interactions that occur between nurses and patients at triage and the ways in which these interactions might impact satisfaction with emergency care.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Good interpersonal relationships can positively influence satisfaction with the emergency visit. This relationship can contribute to improved patient care and health outcomes.