Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Committee Chair

Cindy Miller


Nationwide volumes of those utilizing an emergency department (ED) for care have increased significantly over three decades with health professionals witnessing a significant increase of those triaged as non-urgent. Despite alternative healthcare resources, utilization has continued. Multiple factors are influential in the decision-making process with seriousness of condition having a direct link. However, a gap of knowledge exists between the professionals’ actual measured level of acuity and the patient’s perceived level. The term “urgency” has no standard definition in healthcare. Few studies have examined urgency from the patient’s perspective. The purpose of this study was to identify primary factors influential in the decision to choose the ED with a focus on seriousness of condition as a primary reason. The study also explored perception of urgency of medical conditions from the participant’s perspective using the Emergency Severity Index (ESI) algorithm and timeframes as a basis of reference. In a quantitative descriptive study where n = 52, data analysis found seriousness of condition, referral, and the inability to obtain an appointment with a primary care provider (PCP) as the top three factors in the decision-making process with seriousness of condition a primary factor. There was a gap in knowledge of urgency as the sample group identified their perception of acuity as different from the standardized Emergency Severity Index levels used by health professionals. Examination of differences in measurement of acuity would help inform future researchers in seeking evidenced-based practice to meet patient needs, particularly when demand exceeds supply of available timely ED resources.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.