A triage nurse is the person responsible in determining the severity of those rushed to a hospital’s emergency department, where priority of treatment is never based on a first come, first serve basis, but rather on the severity of the condition of the patient. Thus, a person with a life threatening condition will need to be treated ahead of everyone else even if they all arrived hours before him or her.

Long waits are very common in emergency departments; but, though waiting can be one infuriating experience, especially to a patient who may be suffering from extreme pain but whose condition is actually much less severe than another, medical personnel have no other option besides attending first to those with more serious complaints. A reasonable rule, definitely, but only if all complaints are diagnosed correctly.

Sadly, but thousands of medical errors are committed in emergency departments, or emergency rooms (ERs), making these very frequent recipients of medical malpractice lawsuits filed by injured patients or the families of patients whose injury has resulted to death. Majority of these errors are wrong diagnosis or misdiagnosis.

Correct diagnosis of a patient’s health complaints is critical in medical treatment since it will enable a doctor to provide timely treatment and correct medication. Many times in emergency departments, however, the contrary happens, maybe due to their overcrowdedness and chaotic atmosphere and, with these departments usually being understaffed despite the overload of patients, poor communication, lack of collaboration between nurses and doctors and, worst, misdiagnosis become very common.

The most common types of conditions that are often misdiagnosed in emergency departments are stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, meningitis, and appendicitis, which has a 28% to 57% misdiagnosis rate in children under 12 and almost a 100% in infants.

A misdiagnosis, or wrong diagnosis, is one kind of medical malpractice that can result to the worsening of a patient’s original health complaint, cause a new serious health condition, or even lead to fatal consequences. Probably worse than all these probabilities, however, is the fact that this type of malpractice is a product of medical negligence, thus, making all of its ill effects preventable.