Sepsis, a common, time-sensitive condition, is sometimes not identified at emergency department (ED) triage. The use of early warning scores has been shown to improve sepsis-related screening in other settings.
Our objective was to elucidate nurse and physician perceptions with the Hamilton Early Warning Score (HEWS) in combination with the Canadian Triage Acuity Scale.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nurses, resident physicians and attending physicians to explore perceived feasibility, utility, comfort, barriers, successes, opportunities and accuracy. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used. Transcripts were coded into thematic coding trees.
The twelve participants did not value the HEWS in the ED because they felt it was not helpful in identifying critically ill patients. We identified five themes; knowledge of sepsis and HEWS, utility of HEWS in emergency triage, utility of HEWS at the bedside, utility in communicating acuity and deterioration, and feasibility and accuracy of data collection. We also found 9 barriers and 7 enablers to the use of early warning score in the ED.
In our emergency departments, we identified potential barriers to implementation of an early warning score. A pre-existing expertise and lexicon related to critically ill patients lessens the perceived utility of an EWS in the ED. Understanding these cultural barriers needs to be addressed through change theory and implementation science.