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Q&A: Daniel Vaillancourt, triage nurse, Emergency Department

Toronto, May 15, 2014

By Patricia Favre

Daniel Vaillancourt
Daniel Vaillancourt. (Photo by Katherine Cooper)

In St. Michael’s Emergency Department, a group of nurses has the responsibility of determining the priority of patients’ treatments. Daniel Vaillancourt has been a nurse at St. Michael’s Hospital for more than six years and has been working as a triage nurse for 15 years.

Q. Tell us about your role. What do you do as a triage nurse?

The triage nurse is often the first person patients see when they come into the Emergency Department. The role includes prioritizing patients based on what they’re here for. We assess symptoms and complaints and decide where patients should go in the ED. We also decide how quickly they need to be seen.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

The biggest challenge is never knowing who’s coming in. Sometimes 10 patients will come in at once and we have to decide what’s wrong with them and how quickly they need to be seen. Our ED is quite hectic, so space and time constraints are top of mind.

Q. How do you cope with the hectic nature of the Emergency Department?

To be a triage nurse, you have to have a certain amount of experience on the ED floor. So when things get hectic, I tap into my knowledge and experience to get me through it. I’m also very motivated by trying to do the best for my patients.

Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The best part of the job is when I get to see patients walk out of the hospital after receiving the right kind of care – or knowing that patients have been directed to the right place for the kind of care they need. I also work with a great team of people. Having colleagues that I can relate to and share experiences with is important.

Q. What book would we find on your nightstand?

Right now I’m reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I generally prefer non-fiction and Gladwell’s stories are always well researched and enlightening.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.