Nurses prioritize patients in triage

"Triage" comes from French and means "selection" or "sighting". The term was originally developed for military medicine in field hospitals in order to be able to decide quickly which injured person should be treated first. A decision that was not made on the basis of the severity of an injury at the time. First of all, help was given to those who had the best chance of a speedy recovery in order to be quickly fit for the war again.

Fortunately, a different decision is made today: In an emergency room, people who are particularly bad receive special urgent treatment. Unless there is a lack of time, personnel and materials, so that adequate care is not possible for everyone. In such situations, triage is used to make treatment decisions in such a way that as many people as possible survive.

However, there are recommendations that should make it easier for doctors to make decisions. At the end of March 2020, the Working Group of Scientific Medical Societies (AWMF) published a first version of clinical-ethical recommendations on how to proceed in an emergency in Germany. They were updated again in mid-April and published as a so-called S1 guideline. These guidelines are not legally binding, but medical personnel are encouraged to follow them.

The recommendations of the AWMF are based on justifiable ethical principles in an exceptional situation. Triage is only used when there is a scarcity of resources, for example if there are not enough places available in the intensive care unit.

The principle of multiple eyes applies here. Several doctors and nursing staff in the intensive care unit jointly decide which patient is to be treated first and how.