Emergency department waiting room nurses in practice: An observational study

Kelli Innes, Doug Elliott, Virginia Plummer, Debra Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and objectives: To identify the activities and behaviours of waiting room nurses in emergency department settings. Background: Emergency care has expanded into waiting rooms in some emergency departments. Often viewed as an adjunct to triage, the aim of waiting room nurses is to commence care early, reassess patients and improve communication between patients, families and staff. There is however a paucity of literature relating to waiting room nurses, especially in relation to their current activities and behaviours. Design and methods: Part of a larger exploratory sequential mixed methods designed study. This phase used a nonparticipant observer role to observe waiting room nurses in their natural setting undertaking normal care and responsibilities. One observer, using a tool and reflective journal, collected data on participant interactions, processes and practices on eight waiting room nurses over 13 episodes of observation (total 65 hr:50 min) in two emergency departments. Data analysis used descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Results: Participants were observed to anticipate and prioritise to deliver holistic, patient-centred care in emergency department waiting rooms. Waiting room nurses had a varied and unpredictable workload, including facilitating the flow of patients from the waiting room. They contributed to patient safety in the waiting room, primarily by reassessing and detecting clinical deterioration. Conclusion: Further research into this role is required, including linking efficacy with experience of nurses, impact the role has on patient safety, and patient and family perceptions of the role. Relevance to clinical practice: Therapeutic engagement allowed waiting room nurses to reassure and calm patients and families, and deliver holistic, patient-centred care. Waiting room nurses contributed to patient safety in the waiting room, by promptly commencing episodes of care in the waiting room and through close monitoring and assessment to detect patient deterioration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1402-e1411
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • emergency departments
  • emergency nursing
  • mixed methods
  • observation
  • qualitative research
  • waiting room

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