Telephone Triage Nurse
Also referred to as “advice nurse” or as “telehealth nursing,” a telephone triage nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who works in a physician’s office or in a clinic answering phones to assist patients with health questions. While this sounds fairly straight-forward, it can be a challenging job as the nurse does not have the benefit of a physical assessment. Instead, the telephone triage nurse must know precisely what to ask the patient, and also make use of non-verbal cues to assess the severity of the situation. Telephone triage nurses generally have practice protocols that they strictly follow, considering the patient’s age, condition, height, weight, etc., but they must also use their professional judgment.
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Sometimes patients have general questions. Sometimes they are ill and are not sure if they need to come in and see the physician, seek emergency medical care, or if they can care for their symptoms at home. Often, the purpose of the triage nurse is to determine the severity of the patient’s injury or illness, and advise them whether or not they need to come into the doctor or go to the emergency room. Telephone triage nurses must be very good listeners and have good communication skills. They must also be able to communicate clearly and in a calm manner to patients who could be worried or under emotional distress over their or their loved one’s condition. Telephone triage nurses may consult a patient’s chart via computer while talking to them as well. Often the telephone triage nurse may ask the physician a question and follow up with the patient. Documenting the call is also generally within the telephone triage nurse duties. Advances in technology have also aided the efficiency of telehealth nursing, as new software can guide a nurse through specific questions, as well as readily make available a patient’s charts, prescriptions, and medical history.
Nurses at all levels can work triage, but they must be registered nurses (RN). There are different educational paths toward becoming an RN. You can earn a nursing degree in just two to three years by completing an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or an associate of science in nursing (ASN) program. Earning a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is considered by many nursing organizations and employers the minimum education required for professional nursing practice and will likely get you a higher salary and more stimulating job responsibilities. However, an associate degree can also be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at a later point via an rn to bsn program. Some working nurses with an associate degree are offered the opportunity to go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree and have their tuition partially or wholly subsidized by their employer. Typical courses in a nursing program will cover chemistry, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and microbiology, in addition to nursing and clinical experience. Continuing education courses covering telehealth can cover many topics, such as risk management, crisis management, prioritizing by urgency, and balancing strict protocols with professional judgment. Continuing education is a necessity in nursing to maintain your license as well as stay current in your chosen nursing field.
Telephone Triage Nurse Certification
Telephone triage nurse certification is no longer available through the National Certification Corporation for telephone triage nurses. While certification is not required legally in order to practice as a telephone triage nurse the way a nursing license is, it is often highly preferred by employers. Voluntary certification demonstrates that you are committed to meeting national standards in your field of nursing. It generally earns more respect from your employer and co-workers alike, and will likely comfort your patients and give you more confidence as well. Certification information will be updated as it becomes available.
Telephone Triage Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
According to simplyhired.com, the average salary for a telephone triage nurse is $44,000. However, according to salaryexpert.com, a triage nurse can make around $60,000 in major cities, such as $65,000 in Miami, $68,553 in Chicago, and $67,194 in Dallas.
The outlook for nurses in general is very good, as the healthcare industry struggles to fill the nursing shortages with qualified nurses. Healthcare in itself is generally a recession-proof job sector, as it is growing to meet the needs of a growing aging population. But cost-effective healthcare strategies in particular will continue to be in demand, and telephone triage nursing falls into this group. Effective telephone triage nursing cuts down on unnecessary emergency room visits and visits to the physician’s offices, which makes it not only convenient, but cost-effective.
Triage nursing may not be for everyone. For instance the nurse who welcomes the excitement of the ER, or who enjoys working fact-to-face with patients may not feel fulfilled offering nursing advice on the phone for the greater part of their day. However for some nurses, it may be perfect. Because telephone triage nurses work both within normal office hours and at off-hours, which means there is the chance for flexible work hours. Some nurses who have limited mobility could also use their nursing skills in this field. Nurses with strong clinical judgment, familiarity with technology, and great communication skills could find this type of nursing work very fulfilling.