Emergency department mental health triage scales improve outcomes


  • Marc Broadbent RN CCRN Grad Dip Adult Ed, Training,

    1. Project Officer, Mental Health Triage Project, Barwon Health, Geelong, Vic., Australia
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  • Heather Jarman RN BN MN PhD FRCNA,

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor, Contemporary Nursing Practice, School of Nursing, Deakin University/Barwon Health, Geelong, Vic., Australia
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  • Michael Berk MBBCh MMed(Psych) FF(Psych)SA FRANZCP PhD

    1. Professor of Psychiatry, Barwon Health and The Geelong Clinic, Geelong, Vic., Australia
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  • * 

    The terms ‘registered nurse(s)’ and ‘nurse(s)’ throughout this article refer to registered nurse, division one (1) of the register of the Victorian Nurses Act 1993.

Dr Heather Jarman
School of Nursing
Deakin University
Waterfront Campus
Vic. 3220
E-mail: heatherj@barwonhealth.org.au


The assessment and management of clients with mental illness is an important facet of providing emergency care. In Australian emergency departments, it is usually the generalist registered nurses* without adequate preparation in the assessment and care for clients with mental illness who conduct the initial assessment at triage. A search of the literature revealed a limited number of publications addressing the provision of triage and management guidelines to assist nurses to make objective clinical decisions to ensure appropriate care for clients with mental illness. This paper examines the need for such guidelines and reviews a number of mental health triage scales that have been evaluated for use in emergency departments. Findings show that these triage scales have led to improvements in staff confidence and attitudes when dealing with clients with mental health problems, resulting in improved outcomes for clients. Strengths and limitations of the evaluations have also been explored. Highlighted is the need for consideration of the inclusion of clients’ reactions to the impact of this change to service delivery in future evaluations.