Emergency management of the patient with severe burns in the emergency unit

Thursday, September 3 2020



Grobler, RC. (2012). Emergency management of the patient with severe burns in the emergency unit. Professional Nurses Today, 16(3), 37-45. Retrieved from:



Burns have significant short- and long-term consequences for patients and their families, and are one of the most serious injuries to mankind. Although the outcome for burn patients has improved dramatically over the past years, burns still cause substantial morbidity and mortality.


Adequate and effective emergency management of the burn patient during the first few hours post burn can prevent the burn wound from becoming more deeply burnt, minimise possible bacterial infection, lessen pain, facilitate faster healing and rehabilitation and long-term functionality, as well as improve the cosmetic appearance of the area that was burnt.


Minor burns will heal most of the time without further treatment. Severe burns (major burns) can be defined as deep dermal to full-thickness burns that cover an area more than 5-8 cm, or are located on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks or a major joint.


The article will focus on educating the nurse in the effective emergency management of the burn patient, irrespective of the depth of the burn or percentage of total body surface area burnt, and can be used in the pre-hospital phase, primary healthcare area, e.g. clinic environment or emergency centre.


Nurses play a pivotal role in the overall management of the burn patient. They must be well versed in the different available protocols that can be used during the management of the burn patient. Management involves medical care and the psychological support of the patient and family. Optimal care of the burn patient requires a multi-disciplinary team approach. The burn nurse is at the core of this team. He or she is the coordinator of all patient care activities. During all the phases of management of the burn patient, the nursing assessment should focus on early detection or prevention of complications that are associated with minor to major burns. A list of the most important potential nursing diagnoses for burn patients in the resuscitative and acute phase are listed in Table I.3