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Role of a Triage Nurse

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Emergency rooms in hospitals provide rapid care to patients who suffer injuries or develop sudden, serious symptoms of illness or disease. Triage nurses form an important part of the emergency room team.


Triage nurses evaluate patients' vital signs and ask questions about their medical history, symptoms and reasons for visiting the emergency room. Based on the information they gather, triage nurses then make determinations about the urgency of a patient's need.


Based upon the triage nurse's decision regarding the urgency of a patient's condition, the emergency room staff develops the order that waiting patients will be seen. Because of this, the role of the triage nurse directly effects how quickly patients receive care.

Education and Licensing

Triage nurses generally must be registered nurses. RNs must complete a two-year associate degree, three-year hospital training program diploma or four-year bachelor's degree in nursing. After graduation, they take a written test called the National Council Licensure Examination to receive state licensing as a registered nurse.


To fulfill their role, triage nurses must have the ability to make quick decisions, a high level of listening and communication skills and extensive knowledge of warning signs and symptoms. In most cases, nurses work in the field of emergency medicine for several years before becoming triage nurses in order to gain experience with many different conditions.


As of February 2010, triage nurses averaged annual salaries of $68,000, according to


Faith Davies has been writing professionally since 1996, contributing to various websites. She holds an LAH insurance license in the state of Pennsylvania and has experience as a bank branch manager and lending officer. Davies graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in art history.

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