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Triage nurse requested x rays—are they worthwhile?
  1. M Lindley-Jones,
  2. B J Finlayson
  1. Accident and Emergency Department, Norfolk and Norwich Healthcare NHS Trust, Brunswick Road, Norwich NR1 3SR
  1. Correspondence to: Mr Finlayson, Consultant in Accident and Emergency Medicine


Objective—To study an established triage nurse x ray requesting system to determine whether sending defined groups of patients for radiography before assessment by doctors or emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) resulted in shorter waiting times for patients without compromising quality of care.

Methods—Prospective randomised controlled study of “walking wounded” patients attending a district general hospital. Data were collected over two separate two week periods, six months apart, in the middle of two senior house officer appointment periods. A total of 675 patients were entered into the study. Analysis of results was achieved using standard statistical methods.

Results—Altogether 335 patients were in the nurse x ray group and 340 in the control group. The triage categories of the groups were similar. A 36% mean time reduction of 37.2 min (95% confidence interval 30.2 to 44.2, p=0.000) from time of triage to time of treatment decision was achieved in the nurse requested group. Triage nurses requested 8% (p=0.002) fewer x rays than doctors or ENPs and had a 6% higher positive “hit” rate (p=0.03).

In 7.8% (26 cases), patients in the triage nurse group were judged to require radiographs or further views by the doctor or ENP; of these, 11 cases showed a positive finding on radiography. The time from triage to assessment by doctor or ENP was not lengthened by prior requesting of radiography (nurse x ray group 64.4 min, control group 63.7 min, p=0.79).

Conclusions—A triage nurse x ray requesting system speeds up the progress of walking wounded patients through the department without compromising service quality. Further benefits are staff and patient satisfaction and a greater sense of team working for all staff.

  • radiology
  • nurse requested radiography
  • triage
  • x rays

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  • Conflict of interest: none.

  • Funding: none.