There is a vast difference in settings and scales used by rural emergency departments reported in studies over the last 30 years that it is difficult to compare them.
Dr Tim Baker and Samantha Dawson from CREM reviewed 19 studies from Australia, Canada and the United States that described rural emergency department activity and performance, and identified common characteristics.
They found that the most common presentation was for injury or poisoning, and that a lot of patients presented outside of business hours. There were some urgent patients but this was only a small proportion of presentations. Nurses also managed many patients without medical input.
This study highlighted the need to support nurses as practitioners, and called for the use of common classification systems within the ED for ease of comparison.
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Baker T, and Dawson SL. What small rural emergency departments do: A systematic review of observational studies. Aust J Rural Health. 2013;21(5):254-261.