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Ostomy Wound Manage. 2010 Nov;56(11):61-9.

Disaster management, triage-based wound care, and patient safety: reflections on practice following an earthquake.

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  • 1Section of Wound Healing and Tissue Repair, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA. w.ennis@comcast.net


Triage is the process of prioritizing patient care based on need and available resources. Clinicians in wound clinics triage daily because time and resources never seem to be sufficient. The triage concept is taken to an extreme when a disaster strikes--the clinical goal of patient care transforms from the individual patient to providing the greatest good for the greatest number of patients. Situational awareness of system resources is of paramount importance in a disaster. Planning for surge capacity while simultaneously attending to patients who require immediate attention is a must. The recent earthquake in Haiti provided an opportunity to test those skill sets. Scores of clinicians volunteered their time and expertise, elevating wound care to the status of a clinical division. The experience of providing quality wound care despite a myriad of situational limitations suggests that busy wound clinics can learn valuable lessons from the realm of disaster management. The rate of under- and over-triage in wound clinics can be reduced by utilizing commonly collected outcomes and operational data. Patient safety improves when the hierarchy is flattened, communication is open, checklists are used, debriefings are held, and teamwork is encouraged. Reflecting on the working conditions in Haiti, it is clear that patients and clinicians benefit when success is measured by patient outcomes instead of individual accomplishments.

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