ONE of the terms I have learned during the pandemic was “triage,” which I repeatedly heard from news reports on hospital emergency rooms where patients are assessed based on the severity of their conditions, ensuring that the most critical cases receive immediate attention.
The term originated from military medicine and the battlefield. It is derived from the French word trier, which means “to sort” or “to select.” It was first introduced by Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, a chief surgeon in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.
Over time, the concept of triage spread to civilian medical settings, particularly in response to mass casualty incidents and disasters. Associations can benefit from adopting a triage-like approach to efficiently prioritize tasks, allocate resources, and address urgent issues.
1. Prioritization is key. In a hospital emergency room, triage nurses quickly assess patients upon arrival, categorizing them based on the urgency of their medical needs. Associations can apply this concept, too, by prioritizing tasks and initiatives based on their significance and impact to members. By identifying and addressing critical issues first, associations can ensure their resources and efforts are directed where these are most needed, optimizing their ability to support their members effectively.
By prioritizing, associations can allocate resources, such as time, funding, and human resource more efficiently. This approach prevents valuable resources from being spread too thinly across various tasks and helps focus on the most crucial objectives, ultimately leading to more impactful outcomes.
2. Clear communication is essential. In a hospital triage, clear communication between triage nurses and medical staff is vital to ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate care. Similarly, associations can emphasize transparent and effective communication channels among their members, leadership, and staff. Regular updates on ongoing initiatives, upcoming events, and financial matters help keep members informed and involved. Effective communication also allows the association to gather valuable feedback and insights from their members, enhancing their ability to address their needs and concerns.
3. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial. In a hospital emergency room, situations can change rapidly, requiring the triage team to remain flexible and adaptable. Associations can also be prepared to adjust their plans and strategies as circumstances evolve. Whether they are responding to unexpected events or adjusting long-term goals, flexibility allows associations to stay agile and relevant, ultimately benefitting their members.
4. Empathy and compassion drive effective support. In hospital triage, nurses and medical staff approach patients with empathy and compassion, ensuring that even amidst urgency, patients feel cared for and supported. Associations can draw inspiration from this approach and prioritize member support with empathy and compassion. By genuinely understanding and addressing the needs and concerns of their members, associations can build stronger connections and foster a sense of community. Empathy enables associations to create relevant and impactful programs, services, and policies that truly serve the best interests of their members.
Adopting a triage-like approach allows associations to respond swiftly and efficiently to challenges, allocate resources effectively, and maintain strong connections with their members. Associations can enhance their ability to fulfill their missions and serve as valuable resources and support systems for their members.
Octavio Peralta is currently the executive director of the Global Compact Network Philippines and founder and volunteer CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the “association of associations.” PCAAE will hold its 11th Associations Summit at the PICC on December 6, 2023. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.