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What is triage?

Triage is the sorting and prioritizing of sick/injured people or those surviving a disaster. When triaging patients, medical professionals consider resource availability, and patients are sorted based on their need for emergency medical care.

Medical professionals that may perform triage include:

  • Hospital emergency room gatekeepers
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
  • Soldiers on a battlefield

Triage systems differ by facility, with each system setting different categories regarding the priority of who is cared for or transported for care first. In most cases, the triage system uses color coding for the different categories.

Some examples of different colors, and their meanings, include:

  • Red, yellow, and green are for different levels of care needs, where red is a need for immediate attention due to a critical life-threatening illness or injury, and green is a less serious injury that can handle delayed transport.
  • White: no injuries or illness
  • Black: the individual is deceased or mortally wounded and beyond help

Why is triage important in medical care?

Triage allows patients who need lifesaving treatments to see doctors first when there is a limit on personnel or resources. This system enables doctors to save as many patients as possible by attending to those with the most urgent needs first.