Implementation of an obstetric triage decision aid into a maternity assessment unit and emergency department

  • Mary F. McCarthy
    Corresponding author at: Mercy Hospital for Women, 163 Studley Rd, Heidelberg, VIC, 3084, Australia.
    Mercy Hospital for Women, 163 Studley Rd, Heidelberg, VIC, 3084, Australia

    Werribee Mercy Hospital, 300-310 Princes Hwy, Werribee, VIC, 3030, Australia
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  • Wendy E. Pollock
    Northumbria University, Benton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE7 7XA, UK

    La Trobe University School of Nursing and Midwifery, Bundoora, VIC, 3086, Australia
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  • Susan J. McDonald
    Mercy Hospital for Women, 163 Studley Rd, Heidelberg, VIC, 3084, Australia

    Werribee Mercy Hospital, 300-310 Princes Hwy, Werribee, VIC, 3030, Australia

    La Trobe University School of Nursing and Midwifery, Bundoora, VIC, 3086, Australia
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      The obstetric triage decision aid (OTDA) consists of 10 common pregnancy complaints with key signs and symptoms generating a triage score based on targeted questioning responses. It was developed to provide a standardised approach for obstetric triage conducted by midwives and emergency nurses as neither professional group are expert in the triage of pregnant and postpartum women.


      To evaluate implementation of the OTDA into an emergency department (ED) and maternity assessment unit (MAU).


      The OTDA was introduced to the ED and MAU of a hospital in Australia. A range of implementation strategies were utilised and assessed by pre and post staff survey, and a three-month post-audit of unscheduled maternity presentations. The primary outcome was adoption rate of the OTDA. Secondary outcomes were staff confidence and waiting times. Analyses were undertaken using SPSS (v24). Paired analysis was conducted on staff surveys.


      There were a total of 2829 unscheduled presentations: ED (n = 708) and MAU (n = 2121), 88.1% were triaged using the OTDA, used more in the MAU than the ED (93.2% vs 72.7%; p < .001). In the MAU, women seen within 15 min of arrival improved significantly from 42.0% to 78.0%. There was improvement in the self-rated confidence (p = .002) and competence (p = .004) by nurses and midwives to conduct obstetric triage.


      The introduction of the OTDA required different approaches to change practice. There were improvements in staff self-rated confidence and competence, a reduction in clinical risk associated with under-triage in the ED and improved prioritisation of care in the MAU.


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