Debbie Travers, PhD, RN, FAEN

Associate Professor
Biosurveillance, Emergency Department Triage, Systems/Policy/Informatics


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Nursing
Carrington Hall, CB #7460
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460

Office: 4107

Currently Accepting PhD Students

Dr. Travers is a leader in emergency department triage and informatics research.

She has been involved in emergency department triage, operations and informatics initiatives on the national level for over 20 years.  She helped develop the Emergency Severity Index triage system which is widely used in the U.S. and internationally.  Dr. Travers also investigates methods for improving emergency department efficiency and safety through the use of triage acuity.

Her informatics research focuses on use of emergency department data for public health surveillance, and she has collaborated with state and national public health organizations to advance the field of biosurveillance. Dr. Travers and colleagues at the University of North Carolina developed the Emergency Medical Text Processor (EMT-P) system for use in standardization of emergency department chief complaint data.  She continues to study methods for processing triage notes and other emergency department text for use by public health in conducting surveillance of acute infectious disease outbreaks as well as chronic conditions of public health interest (e.g., asthma, cancer).

2005 Academy of Emergency Nursing, Fellow
2003 Emergency Nurses Association Nursing Practice Award
2002 UNC-Chapel Hill Emergency Medicine Research Forum:

Best research paper: Implementation of a New Five-level Triage Tool

2000 American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium 2000:

Finalist for Harriet Werley & Dianna Forsythe awards for paper: Comparing the User Acceptance of a Computer System in Two Pediatric Offices: A Qualitative Study

  • Cater, S.W., Luzum, M., Serra, A.E., Arasaratnam, M.H., Travers, D., Martin, I.B., Wei, T., Brice, J.H.  (2015).  A prospective cohort study of medication reconciliation using pharmacy technicians in the emergency department to reduce medication errors among admitted patients.  J Emerg Med, 48(2)230-8. doi 10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.09.065.
  • Haas, S., Travers, D., Waller, A., Schwartz, T., Mahalingam, D., & Mostafa, J. (2014). Emergency Medical Text Classifier: A new system for processing and classifying triage notes. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics. 6(2)e178. doi: 10.5210/ojphi.v6i2.5469.
  • Haque, S., Travers, D., Rosenbloom, S.T., Wald, J.  (2014).  Perspectives on care coordination and meaningful use in the emergency department setting.  Proceedings of the 2014 AMIA Symposium.
  • Travers, D., Lich, K., Lippmann, S., Weinberger, M., Yeatts, K., Liao, W. & Waller, A. (2014). Defining emergency department asthma visits for public health surveillance.  Preventing Chronic Disease;11:130329. DOI: 10.5888/pcd11.130329.
  • Griffin, E. S., Lippmann, S. J., Travers, D. A., & Woodard, E. K. (2014). A matched-cohort study of pediatric head injuries: Collecting data to inform an evidence-based triage assessment. Journal of Emergency Nursing: JEN: Official Publication of the Emergency Department Nurses Association, 40(1), 98-104. doi:10.1016/j.jen.2013.07.001; 10.1016/j.jen.2013.07.001.
  • Travers, D., Haas, S. W., Waller, A. E., Schwartz, T. A., Mostafa, J., Best, N. C., et al. (2013). Implementation of emergency medical text classifier for syndromic surveillance. AMIA …Annual Symposium Proceedings. AMIA Symposium, 2013, 1365-1374.
  • Lich, K. H., Travers, D., Psek, W., Weinberger, M., Yeatts, K., Liao, W., et al. (2013). Emergency department visits attributable to asthma in North Carolina, 2008. North Carolina Medical Journal, 74(1), 9-17.
  • Gilboy, N., Tanabe, P., Travers, D. A., Rosenau, A. M., & Eitel, D. R. (Eds). (2011). Emergency severity index, version 4: Implementation handbook 2012 Edition. AHRQ Publication No. 12-0014. Rockville, MD, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, November 2011. (co-editor, primary author of 3 chapters)
  • Mayer, D. K., Travers, D., Wyss, A., Leak, A., & Waller, A. (2011). Why do patients with cancer visit emergency departments? results of a 2008 population study in North Carolina. Journal of Clinical Oncology : Official Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 29(19), 2683-2688. doi:10.1200/JCO.2010.34.2816; 10.1200/JCO.2010.34.2816.
  • Platts-Mills, T. F., Travers, D., Biese, K., McCall, B., Kizer, S., LaMantia, M., et al. (2010). Accuracy of the emergency severity index triage instrument for identifying elder emergency department patients receiving an immediate life-saving intervention. Academic Emergency Medicine : Official Journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, 17(3), 238-243. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00670.x; 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2010.00670.x.
  • Waller, A. E., Scholer, M.J., Ising, A. I., & Travers, D. A. (2010). Using emergency department data for biosurveillance:  The North Carolina experience.  In Castillo-Chavez C. et al. (Eds). Infectious Disease Informatics and Biosurveillance:  Research, Systems, and Case Studies. New York:  Springer Publishing Company; 46-66.
  • Travers, D. A., Waller, A. E., Katznelson, J., & Agans, R. (2009). Reliability and validity of the emergency severity index for pediatric triage. Academic Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, 16(9), 843-849. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2009.00494.x; 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2009.00494.x
  • Haas, S. W., Travers, D., Tintinalli, J. E., Pollock, D., Waller, A., Barthell, E., et al. (2008). Toward vocabulary control for chief complaint. Academic Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, 15(5), 476-482. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00104.x; 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00104.x.
  • Travers, D., Wu, S., Scholer, M., Westlake, M., Waller, A., & McCalla, A. L. (2007). Evaluation of a chief complaint pre-processor for biosurveillance. AMIA …Annual Symposium Proceedings. AMIA Symposium, 2007, 736-740.
  • Quantifying Patient Complexity to Improve ED Performance (2015-2016).
  • School Absenteeism Surveillance System Development:  Stakeholder Assessment. (2015-2016).
  • Adapting natural language processing tools for biosurveillance. National Library of Medicine.  (2009-2013)
  • The North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiological Collection Tool (NC DETECT). (204-2011).
  • Suite of triage tools for an influenza pandemic and discussion-based exercises. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ORISE. (2009-2011)