The word 'triage' comes from the French word 'trier', to sort. It seems to have originated with a Frenchman, Baron Dominique Jean Larrey (17661842), a surgeon in Napoleon's army, who devised a method for evaluating and categorizing the wounded in battle quickly so as to evacuate those requiring the most urgent medical attention. Its usage today varies from place to place and circumstance to circumstance but in general it still involves the classification of patients according to judgments of their capacity to benefit and the urgency of their case. For example, people injured and at the site of an accident might be sorted into the dead for whom one can do nothing; the injured who need immediate transfer to hospital; the injured whose transport can be delayed; and the walking wounded who may need only primary rather than secondary care. A 'triage nurse' (in the USA) is one who performs a telephone interview and makes an assessment of the health status and health service needs of the caller.

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