Clinician perspectives on reasons for, implications and management of unplanned patient returns to the Emergency Department: A descriptive study

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International Emergency Nursing


Background: Unplanned return visits to the emergency department (ED) have been associated with adverse outcomes and may reflect the quality of care delivered. Several studies speculate the reasons for return and suggest clinician behaviour as potentially influencing a patient's decision to return to the ED. There is little research about this issue from the clinician's perspective, which is necessary to inform future practice improvement. Methods: A descriptive cross sectional design was employed to ascertain perspectives on identification and management of return visits occurring within 48 hours of discharge. An electronic survey was distributed to all medical, nursing, and clerical staff at one ED. Descriptive statistics were used for quantitative data and content analysis was performed on textual data. Results were categorised as barriers or facilitators, then mapped to the Theoretical Domains Framework. Results: A response rate of 59.7% (n=86/144) was achieved. Staff reported increased levels of concern for this patient group but not all staff were aware of the policy for managing return patients (40.7%). Five barriers and three facilitators were identified that mapped to eight influencers of behaviour including knowledge, memory and environmental factors. Conclusion: Overall, staff were aware of return patients but lacked familiarity with policy and processes to identify and commence relevant protocols. Further review of current practice as well as the patient perspective is required before any intervention to improve practice is developed.

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