To determine the inter-observer agreement on triage assignment by first-time users with diverse training and background using the Canadian Emergency Department Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS).
Twenty emergency care providers (5 physicians, 5 nurses, 5 Basic Life Support paramedics and 5 Advanced Life Support paramedics) at a large urban teaching hospital participated in the study. Observers used the 5-level CTAS to independently assign triage levels for 42 case scenarios abstracted from actual emergency department patient presentations. Case scenarios consisted of vital signs, mode of arrival, presenting complaint and verbatim triage nursing notes. Participants were not given any specific training on the scale, although a detailed one-page summary was included with each questionnaire. Kappa values with quadratic weights were used to measure agreement for the study group as a whole and for each profession.
For the 41 case scenarios analyzed, the overall agreement was significant (quadratic-weighted κ = 0.77, 95% confidence interval, 0.76–0.78). For all observers, modal agreement within one triage level was 94.9%. Exact modal agreement was 63.4%. Agreement varied by triage level and was highest for Level I (most urgent). A reasonably high level of intra- and inter-professional agreement was also seen.
Despite minimal experience with the CTAS, inter-observer agreement among emergency care providers with different backgrounds was significant.