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Keywords:

  • body temperature;
  • continuing education;
  • emergency medical services;
  • hypothermia;
  • multiple trauma

Recording a patient’s vital signs is a basic requirement that in part informs clinical decision-making. Practice suggests that recording a trauma patient’s temperature is occasionally overlooked in the emergency department. A staff survey was undertaken to gain an appreciation of knowledge and understanding of the issues that surround accidental or exposure hypothermia in trauma patients. Results demonstrate that nurses and doctors are unsure of how to define hypothermia and are not conversant with simple ways to prevent heat loss or rewarm patients. Complications from hypothermia such as coagulopathy and metabolic acidosis were seldom identified. Issues that limit staff recording temperature include patient access and acuity, lack of knowledge and confidence and access to temperature-measuring devices. These results emphasize the need for regular education. Implications for clinical practice were considered; an algorithm to guide staff on ways to improve the monitoring and management of temperature in trauma patients was developed. Opportunities for ongoing and further research were identified.