Please welcome today’s guest writer, Kayla Innis. Kayla is filling in for Bekah Williamson. Kayla is a pediatric nurse currently working for Mercy Ships in Madagascar. Her spirit animal is a lemur.

“I’m having chest pain.”
(I now initiate eye contact and pay more attention)
“Okay. [typing noises] When did it start?”
“Five days ago.”
(less concerned now)
“Does it hurt more when you breathe or cough?”
“Yea. It hurts the worst when I cough.”
“Fever?”
“I think so.”
Bingo. You can wait.

I motion the patient to sit at a nearby chair and continue with the next person in line. The whole purpose of triaging is to decide who needs to go back to a room immediately and who can acquaint themselves with the waiting room. Survival of the fittest applies to many situations in life, but the ER is not one of them; if you’re the most fit you will wait longer.

The word “triage” came to us from French. It means “to separate out.” This is a wise idea to implement in the healthcare setting, right? Large volumes of patients requires a steadfast system to organize such chaos. As a triage nurse gains experiences, he/she learns to ask specific questions and listen for key words.

There are multiple factors that contribute to a child’s triage, but there are three that I have learned are most important. First, how does the child appear? Is he acting normally for his developmental age? Is he sleeping? Screaming? When provoked, does the child react? Next, I look at the breathing pattern. Is this toddler breathing really quickly or irregularly? Do I see any ribs or abdominal muscle use? Nasal flaring? Lastly, I check the circulation to skin. Is the capillary refill on her fingernails < 2 seconds? Are her lips and skin pink? Dry? Flushed? All of this happens with a glance, a lift of the shirt, and a tap to the nailbed.

Unfortunately, my triage mindset has leaked out into my personal life, and I now do this with men. Yup, it’s true: I triage my dates.

I didn’t try to, and I didn’t realize I was doing this until recently. The fact is that I just like to know my disposition towards a guy I’m dating. Basically, instead of sick/not sick I want to know like/dislike. There’s no in between. Obviously, I don’t use the same assessment criteria, although there have been times when I’ve wanted to lift up a shirt to “check breathing.” (Kidding…kind of? Can you blame me?)

So what assessment criteria do I use to triage my dates? I focus on three categories: values and beliefs, sense of humor, and travel. Height and eye color make little difference to me as long as he can appreciate sarcasm.  I’d rather be with a man who cares about the world and individuals than someone who creates a schedule around sporting events. If I ask him to go on an adventure together I really hope he imagines a hostel in a developing country and not going to the cinema on Friday night.

As you can see, my triage process for men is way more involved than it is for my patients. I know it’s not fair and I shouldn’t do it.  Here’s the big difference: ER triage is based on appearance, while my personal triage is based on qualities and attributes–information you can’t gather sitting across from someone at a nice dinner, especially if it’s the first time you’ve met. Obviously, these things take time, but I put pressure on myself to assign an acuity to each man I date. I don’t want to waste time or end up feeling apathetic about someone while I wait for interest to accrue.

Sigh. Maybe I need to leave the ER so I’m not constantly triaging the men around me. And who knows? With the right guy a trip to the movies might end up being an adventure. You never know.

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