Triage Guidelines for Providers Interfacing with Mental Health Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing (ND)

First Advisor

Nanette Hoerr


This QI Project was inspired by a concern and belief that a hospital emergency department (ED) can more effectively respond to and manage the mental health patient population by improving its triage process. When a patient in mental health crisis presents to the emergency department (ED) for care, the triage process often results in patients having multiple encounters with various staff asking the same questions over and over. Many times, staff query patients about issues that are considered non-essential. Patients are often frustrated by this repeated questioning and therefore, the ability to develop or maintain a positive therapeutic relationship is compromised. Patients often shut down, become increasingly agitated, are mistrustful, and even walk out of the ED without receiving care. The following initiative focuses on identifying and addressing system level barriers that impede the ability to triage mental health patients seeking care in the ED. At the conclusion of this QI project, practice changes include the reduction of door to doc time, enhanced communication between staff and clarification of assigned roles and duties, and a streamlined workflow process.


DNP Project Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Nursing Practice

St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN