Douma, M.J. et al. Annals of Emergency Medicine. Published online: July 29, 2016
Study objective: Emergency department (ED) crowding is a common and complicated problem challenging EDs worldwide. Nurse-initiated protocols, diagnostics, or treatments implemented by nurses before patients are treated by a physician or nurse practitioner have been suggested as a potential strategy to improve patient flow.
Results: Protocols decreased the median time to acetaminophen for patients presenting with pain or fever by 186 minutes (95% confidence interval [CI] 76 to 296 minutes) and the median time to troponin for patients presenting with suspected ischemic chest pain by 79 minutes (95% CI 21 to 179 minutes). Median ED length of stay was reduced by 224 minutes (95% CI –19 to 467 minutes) by implementing a suspected fractured hip protocol. A vaginal bleeding during pregnancy protocol reduced median ED length of stay by 232 minutes (95% CI 26 to 438 minutes).
Conclusion: Targeting specific patient groups with carefully written protocols can result in improved time to test or medication and, in some cases, reduce ED length of stay. A cooperative and collaborative interdisciplinary group is essential to success.