Shadowing a DoctorOctober 2, 2014
Education & training
To be hired as a telephone triage nurse, you need to be a Registered Nurse (RN) with sufficient hands-on experience. Additional certification in pharmacology, risk management or poison control will increase your chances of employment. However, you should know that requirements could vary depending on the employer’s area of focus.
Since this is not a hands-on position, there are a few attributes that are particularly important. Two of the most important of these are excellent communication skills and decision-making skills.
- Communication skills
Tele-health nurses must be extremely skilled at listening to what the patient is telling them. They must be able to hear not only what the patient is saying, but also have the ability to interpret subtle inflections such as the tone of voice, hesitation to answer, incomplete answers and evasive responses. As a telephone triage nurse, it is important to know what questions to ask, as there are no visual observations or diagnostic tests to help with the diagnosis. One of the most challenging aspects of this job is trying to get the right information from patients who speak limited English.
One of the primary responsibilities of a tele-health nurse is determining whether or not a patient needs professional care and if so, what kind of care. Depending on the information given to you by the patient regarding the severity and duration of symptoms, you may need to just dispense self-care advice or you may be required to direct the patient to visit the correct specialist, hospital or clinic. Depending on the level of urgency, you also have to decide whether the patient can wait for an appointment till the next day or whether an emergency appointment is called for.
Career outlook & salary
Telephone triage nurses are registered nurses, and as such they receive about the same salary as a hands-on nurse with the same level of training and experience. Reduced mobility requirements and flexible working hours are an additional benefit to many nurses who choose this career path. Schedules are generally quite varied and depend on the employer and location. A nurse employed by an insurance company may work through a more regular nine to five schedule whereas working for a doctor’s office may involve answering calls after hours or overnight.
The job outlook for registered nurses in all specialties is considered to be excellent for at least the next decade and because telephone triage nurses in particular serve patients of all ages and genders, the long-term career outlook is positive. These professionals provide a valuable service to patients as well as medical professionals and institutions.
Telephone triage nursing is one of the few areas in health care that allows for significant flexibility in terms of working conditions. You could even work from home in this role. It is also a nursing specialty that does not require a high level of physical fitness. This makes it ideal for those with disabilities as well as older nurses to continue to practice their profession. The most important part of the job is to exercise skill and care in giving advice and ensuring that all advice is meted out with the appropriate standard of care for a specific case.