Telephone triage is a component of telephone nursing practice that focuses on assessment prioritization and referral to the appropriate level of care, it's defined as an interactive process between nurse and client that occurs over the telephone and involves identifying the nature and urgency of health care needs and determining the appropriate disposition.
Key elements of note are assessment prioritization and referral to the appropriate level of care.
One thing is clear, however, telephone triage requires sophisticated critical thinking that utilizes diagnostic reasoning and is a high-risk form of care especially if the nurse takes the encounter lightly.
In addition to being symptom-based, they're also time sensitive, meaning a patient could experience a significant delay in care if calls aren't managed promptly.
Not every call requires an ambulance, telephone triage creates an avenue for the use of alternative care pathways, and some people just need advice on how to manage their symptoms at home.
Who is The Job Best For?
The telephone triage nurse job is best suited for registered nurses with limited mobility and those who want more flexible working hours as this gives you an opportunity to work from home with the latest medical technology.
What You Will Be Doing
The primary objective of the telephone triage nurse is to identify the nature and urgency of the patient's problem and direct them to the appropriate level of care, providing support and collaboration as necessary along the way.
These patients don't yet have a diagnosis even if they've been evaluated previously that day face-to-face or over the phone, each call must be addressed as a new call in order to identify problems that were initially overlooked or that have evolved since the last contact.
A telephone triage nurse helps a patient to understand their disease processes and help them to enable them to understand how to manage them and provide resources that are available to them through their insurance.
Basically just making sure that they have the knowledge in order to have their medical issues under good control, the more knowledge they have the better care they take of themselves.
A telephone triage nurse would have meetings with the medical director to discuss what could be done better and what could be done differently just to help the patient.
They also give tips and tricks to try at home for home care.
To work as a telephone nurse you must have the following;
- Be a graduate of an approved nursing program with either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
- Be certified or licensed in your specific position specialty.
- A state license to practice.
- Taking elective courses in pharmacology or poison control is an added advantage.
- At least 2 years of experience as a nurse is required
- The training for the telephone triage nurse job takes approximately anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks. It basically starts off with job shadowing another nurse, learning the system like how to find the different things that you need to complete the call and learning how to talk to the patient.
The main tools required to be a telephone triage nurse are telephone and the computer.
On the computer, there are a lot of resources there like the assessment tools that you can look at.
A lot of these assessment tools have specific information on what's appropriate and what to ask the consumer.
The biggest difference is probably just the visual and you have to pick out what they're seeing, how they're seeing at the tone of their voice rather than actually looking at them and seeing their verbal expressions and their behavior you know.
Under that umbrella of tele-health nursing, nurses utilize remote monitoring equipment such as blood pressure devices and cardiac monitors to track the progress of a patient with congestive heart failure.
Other tools include web cameras, VOIP, the internet to deliver care over a long distance.
How Much You Can Expect to Make
Telephone nurses earn as high as $30 per hour and according to salary.com, the median annual salary of a telephone nurse is $71,660 with a range usually between $65,388 to $81,041; however, this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors like your specialty and the institution you work for.
Where You Can Work
Telephone nurses can work in a variety of places which include managed care or insurance companies, advice center clinics, outpatient care facilities, nursing homes, community health centers, mental health facilities, etc.
The Cons of Working as a Telephone Triage Nurse
One of the cons of working as a telephone triage nurse is just not having that hands-on patient care you know getting to know your patients to kind of understand and get the flow of how they handle themselves how they talk, if they are in a good mood, a nasty mood, having a bad day or good day.
You know when you are face to face with that patient; it kind of helps you to kind of gather that information more quickly than being over the phone.
Another drawback of not being at the bedside is not doing that hands-on skill that you are used to as a nurse like inserting an IV into a vein or giving injections.
Those are some really fun things to do as a nurse and so you don't really get to do that anymore.
Another thing to keep in mind for telephone triage nurse is that all calls are recorded and timed not all of the different triage hotlines out there are created equal so different expectations are placed for different triage nurse hotlines.
The best part about being a telephone triage nurse is when you reach the consumers and you impact their lives and they say “yeah I went to my doctor and I asked them about this medication and you were right they should be on it or thank you for that information my blood sugars are now within normal limits or my asthma is under good control or I lost 10 pounds or I quit smoking” you know that positive impact on the consumers life is so rewarding.