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Int Emerg Nurs. 2014 Apr;22(2):105-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ienj.2013.06.004. Epub 2013 Aug 23.

Emergency department boarding times for patients admitted to intensive care unit: Patient and organizational influences.

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  • 1School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6, Canada. Electronic address:
  • 2School of Nursing, Laurentian University, Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6, Canada.
  • 3Epidemiology, Outcomes & Evaluation, Northeast Cancer Centre, Health Sciences North, 41 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.



Critically ill patients can be subject to prolonged stays in the emergency department following receipt of an order to admit to an intensive care unit. The purpose of this study was to explore patient and organizational influences on the duration of boarding times for intensive care bound patients.


This exploratory descriptive study was situated in a Canadian hospital in northern Ontario. Through a six-month retrospective review of three data sources, information was collected pertaining to 16 patient and organizational variables detailing the emergency department boarding time of adults awaiting transfer to the intensive care unit. Data analysis involved descriptive and non-parametric methods.


The majority of the 122 critically ill patients boarded in the ED were male, 55 years of age or older, arriving by ground ambulance on a weekday, and had an admitting diagnosis of trauma. The median boarding time was 34 min, with a range of 0-1549 min. Patients designated as most acute, intubated, and undergoing multiple diagnostic procedures had statistically significantly shorter boarding times.


The study results provide a profile that may assist clinicians in understanding the complex and site-specific interplay of variables contributing to boarding of critically ill patients.


Boarding time; Critically ill; Emergency department; Exploratory

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