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How to Become a Telephone Triage Nurse

How to Become a Telephone Triage Nurse

A telephone triage nurse provides medical guidance to patients, assesses their health condition, and suggests the right course of action, all over the phone. This CareerStint article will tell you how to become a telephone triage nurse.
Buzzle Staff
"I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse." ― Florence Nightingale

A profession in the field of medicine is, no doubt, a noble one. Everyone in this field is, in some way, responsible for people's lives. Nursing follows the same approach; especially, after a surgery, nurses need to be extremely cautious and attentive for the post-operative care of a patient. They should possess sufficient knowledge and experience. While this is the norm with regular nurses, the same applies to telephone triage nurses as well.
Telephone triage nursing, also known as telepathology or telehealth nursing, employs professionals to provide medical assistance over the phone. This is useful in many cases, because the patient is able to assess the seriousness of the situation, as to whether he is really sick, or if treatment can be done at home itself, or he needs the paramedics immediately, etc.
Job Profile and Responsibilities
  • A telephone triage nurse basically helps patients identify the type of care they require at that moment. Unlike regular nurses, she cannot physically examine the patient; therefore, she has to rely on the information relayed to her.
  • When she receives a call, she has to immediately gather all information about the patient―gender, height, age, weight, etc.
  • Like a physician, she also has to inquire about the patient's current condition so that she is able to diagnose the patient's current ailment accurately.
  • Once she has this data in hand, she should be quick and knowledgeable enough to understand the condition of the person in question. Accordingly, she has to help him determine what he needs to do ahead.
  • For instance, if a person has minor injury due to a fall, and there is heavy bleeding, she will advise the patient to contact local doctors or health care specialists in the area, and have the wound stitched (or bandaged, depending on the seriousness of the wound).
  • If there is slight bleeding, she will provide the patient with first aid information, and inquire about the nature of the injury. This will enable her to determine whether the injury is serious and requires immediate attention.
  • Another instance is if the patient is experiencing breathlessness or chest pain or something complicated. In this case, she will advise the patient to go in for emergency medical services.
  • The nurse is also expected to know the local doctors' addresses so that if any patient does not have a regular physician, he can go to the doctor recommended by her.
  • If the problem is serious and requires medical attention immediately, which may be expensive, the nurse must introduce the patient and his family to welfare programs that might help pay for his treatment if the patient cannot afford the medical expenses.
  • She must also ensure proper follow-up, in case the patient has a chronic condition or a serious problem, such as diabetes or asthma, and she has advised him to visit a hospital.
  • Decision-making abilities
  • Good listening skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Extensive knowledge about health care
  • Ability to stay calm
  • Patience
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong computer skills
  • Ideally, it would help if you have sufficient experience working as a regular nurse before becoming a telephone triage nurse.
  • You wouldn't need a nursing license to become one, but it is highly recommended that you obtain a certification, as it impresses prospective employers.
  • In order to become a registered nurse (RN), you have to undertake an associate degree in nursing (and) or associate of science in nursing (ASN) course.
  • After completion, you are eligible to get employed, but some prefer completing the 4-year degree course of bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) as well. This, however, can be done later too.
  • Less than a decade back, the National Certification Corporation used to offer certification programs for telephone triage nurses, though it is not in practice now.
  • As of today, you can undergo clinical training and gain sufficient experience, after which you can enroll in an emergency nursing triage training program, which is approved by the Emergency Nurses Association.
  • Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) will provide more employment opportunities in the medical field.
  • After you obtain a certification, you can apply to telephone triage nursing services and other health care lines.
  • Your education and training will cover topics, like behavioral science, anatomy, nutrition, basic care and comfort, physiology, chemistry, pharmacological therapies, effective care management, legal issues, rapid patient assessment, etc.
  • The salary of a telephone triage nurse varies according to geographic location, employer, as well as experience.
  • Some are paid on an hourly basis as well, with the hourly wage between USD 15 to USD 25.
  • On an average, an experienced telephone triage nurse may earn more than USD 60,000, annually.
  • An exact figure is difficult to predict, since the pay is largely dependent on several factors.
Work Environment
  • This job is very challenging. You need to be well-versed in medical terminology and emergency care tips, and you must be able to quickly and accurately assess the medical condition of a patient.
  • You will be working in irregular shifts, perhaps night shifts, at times, since a triage nurse is required to be on call 24X7.
  • You will be on the phone constantly; every day will be filled with anxious people wanting to get the right advice and encouragement.
  • You will be hired to work in hospitals, trauma units, outpatient care facilities, poison control centers, with private physicians, etc.

Apart from irregular shifts, the job of a telephone triage nurse is interesting as well as noble. While you do not have to cope up with the physical 'running about', like emergency care nurses, you have to be alert and cautious so that you can provide the right information. Never forget, a life depends on you.