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Feasibility and need for violence risk screening at triage: an exploration of clinical processes and public perceptions in one Australian emergency department
  1. Catherine Daniel1,
  2. Marie Gerdtz2,
  3. Stephen Elsom3,
  4. Jonathan Knott4,
  5. Roshani Prematunga3,
  6. Elizabeth Virtue4
  1. 1Consultation Liaison Psychiatry, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2School of Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  3. 3Centre for Psychiatric Nursing, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4Emergency Department, Melbourne Health, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Catherine Daniel, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Consultation Liaison Psychiatry, Grattan Street, Parkville, Melbourne, VIC 3052, Australia; catherine.daniel{at}


Background Research on patient aggression in hospital emergency departments supports the development of a systematic process for identifying individuals at risk of becoming violent. The feasibility and community acceptance of this approach is unknown. In this study, we determine the feasibility and explore the need for a violence risk screening process in one Australian emergency department.

Method We used a descriptive exploratory design that involved semistructured interviews and observations of practice. The setting was an adult tertiary referral hospital and major trauma centre located in Melbourne, Australia. A convenience sample of nine triage nurses were observed assessing patients to explore how risk screening was undertaken in practice. Semistructured interviews were conducted with emergency department (ED) service users (N=19) to explore community perspectives on the process of violence risk screening.

Results Observations of practice revealed that nurses used observed and reported information to screen for potential risk of violence rather than employing a direct questioning approach. Interviews with community members in the emergency department waiting room highlighted a public expectation that nurses screen and accurately identify patients at risk of violence on arrival to the ED.

Conclusions Consistent with local prevalence data, public expectations of emergency care supported the need to adopt a uniform approach to identifying people at risk of becoming violent on arrival to hospital. Observations of triage nurses interactions with patients revealed that the existing violence risk screening approach was not being consistently used by triage nurses. An integrated approach to determining violence risk during triage assessment is recommended.

  • triage
  • risk management
  • violence

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