Shadowing a DoctorOctober 1, 2014
Most nursing specialities require you to be physically active and dexterous and this itself acts as a major deterrent to many individuals who would love to become nurses but have various mobility issues or other physical disabilities that hamper their dexterity. If you are one of those individuals, telephone triage nursing may be the answer you are looking for.
A telephone triage nurse assesses patient needs and answers their medical questions over the telephone. Also referred to as tele-health nurses, these professionals are often the first contact a patient will have when seeking advice or treatment for an acute condition. Telephone triage nursing is ideal for older nurses or nurses whose mobility is restricted, since the job can be performed while seated and from any location. It is a crucial task that requires careful listening, good clinical judgment and excellent critical thinking and assessment skills. Most companies prefer to hire qualified, experienced RNs to perform this job.
Detailed job description & work settings
Telephone triage nurses do not come into contact with patients at all. Their job is primarily behind-the-scenes. These professionals evaluate a patient’s health and need for treatment based on the patient’s own assessment and responses to the questions asked. As a tele-health nurse, you need to be proficient enough to evaluate the information given by the patient and either recommend a treatment plan or refer the patient to a doctor if necessary – all of this without actually being able to see the patient or their symptoms first hand.
Tele-health nurses may work in a hospital, doctor’s office, business office or a call centre. Since this is not a hands-on position, you do not have to be in the same location as the patient. You could be fielding local calls or calls from across the country. In this role, you may also be required to provide patient education when appropriate.
Depending on where you are employed, you may be responsible for some or all of the following functions:
- Answering patient calls on a wide range of medical issues
- Asking the right questions that are necessary to get the information you need to make an accurate assessment and diagnosis
- Proficient in using a computer to access patient records and search a database of possible conditions and treatments
- Assessing a patient over the phone and determining if emergency care is necessary, or if the patient should be seen by a doctor
- Providing clear patient information and education and giving the caller proper advice on handling their situation
Private clinics often hire telephone triage nurses to field patient queries and concerns after hours and to determine whether or not a visit to the clinic is warranted. These professionals are also employed by hospitals and insurance companies to assess patient concerns and provide education and home care advice over the phone.
Depending on the place of employment, a telephone triage nurse may have to deal with a wide spectrum of medical conditions. Patients could range from newborn to geriatric, depending on the employer and area of specialty. For example, a pregnant woman with labour pains or a first-time mother whose infant has distressing symptoms may follow a call from an older person with chest pain.