The prevalence and management of deteriorating patients in an Australian emergency department

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Background: Complex human and system factors impact the effectiveness of Rapid Response Systems (RRS). Emergency Department (ED) specific RRS are relatively new and the factors associated with their effectiveness are largely unknown. This study describes the period prevalence of deterioration and characteristics of care for deteriorating patients in an Australia ED and examine relationships between system factors and escalation of care. Methods: A retrospective medical record audit of all patients presenting to an Australian ED in two weeks. Results: Period prevalence of deterioration was 10.08% (n = 269). Failure to escalate care occurred in nearly half (n = 52, 47.3%) of the patients requiring a response (n = 110). Appropriate escalation practices were associated with where the patient was being cared for (p = 0.01), and the competence level of the person documenting deterioration (p = 0.005). Intermediate competence level nurses were nine times more likely to escalate care than novices and experts (p = 0.005). While there was variance in escalation practice related to system factors, these associations were not statistically significant. Conclusion: The safety of deteriorating ED patients may be improved by informing care based on the escalation practices of staff with intermediate ED experience and competence levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalAustralasian Emergency Care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Clinical deterioration
  • Emergency care
  • Emergency department
  • Patient safety
  • Rapid response systems
  • Track & trigger

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