Triage Drift: A Workplace Study in a Pediatric Emergency Department
This paper presents a workplace study of triage work practices within an emergency department (ED). We examine the practices, procedures, and organization in which ED staff uses tools and technologies when coordinating the essential activity of assessing and sorting patients arriving at the ED. The paper provides in-depth empirical observations describing the situated work practices of triage work, and the complex collaborative nature of the triage process. We identify and conceptualize triage work practices as comprising patient trajectories, triage nurse activities, coordinative artefacts and exception handling; we also articulate how these four features of triage practices constitute and connect workflows, organize and re-organize time and space during the triage process. Finally we conceptualize these connections as an assessing and sorting mechanism in collaborative work. We argue that the complexities involved in this mechanism are a necessary asset of triage work, which calls for a reassessment of the concept of triage drift.