Knowledge and Practices of Triage Amongst Nurses Working in the Emergency Departments of Rural Hospitals in Limpopo Province

Thabo Arthur Phukubye1, *, Masenyani Oupa Mbombi1, Tebogo Maria Mothiba1
1 Department of Nursing Science, University of Limpopo, Limpopo, South Africa

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Creative Commons License
© 2019 Phukubye et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Nursing Science, University of Limpopo, Private Bagx1106, Sovenga, Limpopo, South Africa; Tel: 015 268 4316/2385/4801; Fax: 015 268 3080; E-mail:



Many deaths in hospitals occur within 24 hours of admission. Some of these deaths could be prevented if the patients were effectively triaged, identified quickly, and treatment initiated without delay. Triage and emergency care have always been weak and under-emphasized components of healthcare systems in rural areas of Limpopo Province, and yet, if well organised, it could lead to saving many lives and reducing the ultimate costs of care. There have been few studies, and there is little information focusing on nurses’ knowledge about triage in rural hospitals.


This study aims to assess the knowledge and practices of triage amongst nurses working in the Emergency Departments (ED) of the Sekhukhune District, Limpopo Province, South Africa.


By employing a quantitative, non-experimental research method, 84 nurses working in the Emergency Departments, completed and submitted structured questionnaires. The validity and reliability were ensured by pre-testing the data collection instrument on respondents who were not part of the main study. Data were analyzed by using the SPSS version 25, Excel computer programs and score methods.


The findings indicate that there is a correlation between triage knowledge and job title (p-value = 0.046). Registered nurses, specialty nurses, and enrolled nurses, were found to know more than auxiliary nurses. However, the study discovered that, among the nurses with knowledge, 61% exercised poor triage practice, while only 30% showed evidence of good practice.


The study aims at defining triage knowledge and practice amongst nurses in the Emergency Departments. The results indicate that nurses have knowledge regarding triage but have difficulty in converting their factual knowledge into practice, as they scored poorly on questions about the practice. In addition, there emerged a significantly positive relationship between triage knowledge and job titles. The study recommends the development of strategies to enhance the conversion of factual knowledge into practice regarding triage in the ED. This could be implemented through sustainable training courses regarding triage for all the categories of nurses.

Keywords: Emergency Department, Knowledge, Practices, Triage, Nurse, Healthcare system, Rural areas.