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Emergency Department Escalation in Theory and Practice: A Mixed-Methods Study Using a Model of Organizational Resilience

Back, J., Ross, A. J., Duncan, M. D., Jaye, P., Henderson, K. and Anderson, J. E. ORCID: 0000-0002-1452-8370 (2017). Emergency Department Escalation in Theory and Practice: A Mixed-Methods Study Using a Model of Organizational Resilience. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 70(5), pp. 659-671. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2017.04.032

Abstract

Study objective
Escalation policies are used by emergency departments (EDs) when responding to an increase in demand (eg, a sudden inflow of patients) or a reduction in capacity (eg, a lack of beds to admit patients). The policies aim to maintain the ability to deliver patient care, without compromising safety, by modifying “normal” processes. The study objective is to examine escalation policies in theory and practice.

Methods
This was a mixed-method study involving a conceptual analysis of National Health Service escalation policies (n=12) and associated escalation actions (n=92), as well as a detailed ethnographic study of escalation in situ during a 16-month period in a large UK ED (n=30 observations).

Results
The conceptual analysis of National Health Service escalation policies found that their use requires the ability to dynamically reconfigure resources (staff and equipment), change work flow, and relocate patients. In practice, it was discovered that when the ED is under pressure, these prerequisites cannot always be attained. Instead, escalation processes were adapted to manage pressures informally. This adaptive need (“work as done”) was found to be incompletely specified in policies (“work as imagined”).

Conclusion
Formal escalation actions and their implementation in practice differed and varied in their effectiveness. Monitoring how escalation works in practice is essential in understanding whether and how escalation policies help to manage workload.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Nursing
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2020 15:16
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/24852
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