Emergency Triage

In the Emergency Department, it's all about urgency. Patients are seen in order of the seriousness of the medical problems.

Critically ill patients are always seen before patients with less serious problems.

For emergency attendance, call 000 or Canberra Hospital on (02) 6244 2222 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Emergency Triage - Canberra Hospital

The National Triage Scale helps us to identify the critically ill patients and treat them ahead of patients with less serious problems.

  • 1 Immediate Resuscitation
  • 2 Emergency
  • 3 Urgent
  • 4 Semi-urgent
  • 5 Non-urgent

The number of such critically ill patients presenting to the Emergency Department may vary greatly each day, and in a manner which is unable to be predicted. As a result, the waiting time may vary depending on the seriousness of your medical condition and how many critically ill patients are presenting to the Emergency Department.

When you arrive

When you arrive in the Emergency Department, you will meet the Triage nurse who will assess your condition by taking a brief history and measure your vital signs.

The task of the triage nurse is to ensure that patients with urgent medical conditions are attended to promptly. To do this, the triage nurse assesses the urgency associated with each patients medical problem and assigns each patient a category according to the National Triage scale.

You will be assigned a triage category following assessment by the triage nurse.

The use of triage means patients are attended to according to medical need and urgency.

ED procedures

The triage nurse will provide you with an information sheet regarding the Department and will inform you of the triage category assigned to you.

It should be remembered that your triage category is relative to the degree of severity of all types of illnesses or injuries.

We hope you will understand that patients in more urgent categories need to be seen before those in less urgent categories.

We are sure that if you were having a serious heart attack you wouldn't want to wait for treatment because the doctor was attending to another patient's sprained ankle!

We try to attend to your medical needs as soon as possible, however when the emergency department is busy, we may need to attend to a patient with life threatening or limb threatening problems before we can attend to your needs.

Treatment area

Once a treatment area is available in the Emergency Department, you will be transferred from the waiting room area into the treatment area.

In the treatment area, you will be assessed by an Emergency nurse followed by one of our doctors. The doctor will take a detailed history and perform a physical examination to evaluate your medical problem.


It may be necessary to organise blood tests, x-ray or other types of tests to define the extent of the medical problem. Following the clinical and laboratory evaluation, a management plan will be worked out for you. You will be informed of the management plan and the stage of evaluation.

The Canberra Hospital is a teaching hospital and you may be seen either by an Intern, a Resident Medical Officer or Registrar training in Emergency Medicine. Medical students may also ask to see you, with your consent. There is always an Emergency Physician on call at all times.

Your management may involve hospital admission. In that case, further evaluation by the registrar of your attending physician or surgeon may need to be undertaken in the Emergency Department before you can be admitted to the ward. As your admission is not pre-arranged, it may take time to arrange for a bed and arrange the necessary staff to look after you.

This may take several hours before a bed becomes available in the wards. In the meantime, you will be cared for in the Emergency Department.


In the Emergency Department, friends and relatives may be able to visit patients in the department at any time should the patient wish. However, due to the busy nature of the department, and the types of patients that we treat, access of visitors will be at the discretion of the triage nurse.

No more than 2 visitors will allowed at any one time and small children must be supervised at all times.