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Job Description and Average Salary of a Telephone Triage Nurse

Job Description and Average Salary of a Telephone Triage Nurse

It is the job of a telephone triage nurse to provide medical advice and instructions over the phone, after listening to the patient's symptoms. CareerStint gives you the job description and average salary of a telephone triage nurse.
Buzzle Staff
"Save one life, you're a hero. Save 100 lives, you're a nurse."

The word 'triage' has its roots in French; it means 'to sort out' or 'to separate'. The triage system is a part of the EMS (emergency medical services) that was invented to assess medical disasters and emergencies. It so happens that many a time, patients do not need extreme treatment measures, but they are unaware of the seriousness of the situation. It also happens that a patient does need prompt attention, but he does not realize the seriousness of his problems and ignores the signs, resulting in a major problem later on. The triage system helps solve this confusion by helping patients assess the seriousness of the situation. That said, remember that these assessments take place on the spot, where the medical staff determines if your condition is to be kept on a priority list or not. The job of a telephone triage nurse runs along the same lines. She works only over the telephone, asks patients about their condition, symptoms, history, etc., diagnoses their condition, and advises them accordingly. The telephone triage nurse job description is enlisted below.
Job Description
  • This job is similar to that of a regular nurse, but what the telephone triage nurse does is just work over the phone.
  • She gets calls from patients who are confused about their medical signs. It is her duty to advise them properly, lest they end up paying visits to the clinic when the problem is not so serious, and vice versa.
  • In the subsequent paragraphs, you will find a list of the job responsibilities of a triage nurse.
  • A triage nurse needs to have extremely good communication and interpretation skills, as she will be communicating with a variety of people all day.
  • She has to listen to their complaints, note down the problems, check for repeating patterns and regularity, and suggest instructions for proper care.
  • Some people may communicate in a different language/accent; in that case, she has to be alert and try to understand what the person is trying to convey on the other side.
  • The reason she needs to have excellent analyzing skills is because she is not watching the patient, she is just listening to him.
  • She also needs to ask the patient all his personal information, feed it in the computer, check for medication renewal, even learn to judge the situation by gauging the voice of the patient.
The Process
  • To begin with, she receives a call from a patient.
  • She waits patiently, until he reports all his problems. During this time, she should be alert and immediately assess the patient's emotional condition.
  • She should note down the complaints as reported by the patient and then proceed to ask some information.
  • She needs to ask the patient for his personal details - name, height, weight, gender, etc. Then, she should ask him about his medical history.
  • Accordingly, she can make a fair judgment regarding what the patient is suffering from.
  • For example, if the patient has a history of diabetes and blood pressure and is suffering from body pain or something alike, she needs to understand that it is, indeed, a serious situation, and the patient needs immediate medical attention. She will then list down his name as a priority case.
  • She may also contact the nearest physician (or may be the patient's personal physician) and inform him accordingly so that the patient is taken care of.
  • On the other hand, if it is a minor skin wound and the patient is confused regarding how to go about the treatment, she can function as a decision maker herself, and advise the patient to apply a certain ointment, perhaps even take a shot to prevent an infection.
  • She is expected to be considerate, patient, and calm.
  • She has to dress professionally and even communicate in a very caring manner to the patients so that they are at ease while discussing their problems with her.
  • She needs to hone her critical analysis skills so that she can assess and diagnose the patient condition accordingly.
  • In case of a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention, she has to reassure the patient so that the panic attacks do not worsen his/her condition.
  • A triage nurse is expected to direct patients correctly to the right care method.
  • She needs to maintain accurate records of all the calls and corresponding details.
  • She needs to be on high alert as regards to delicate medical conditions, because at such times, she cannot solely take a decision.
  • She needs to retrieve messages, create proper documents, edit medical records, and report to the respective physicians, whenever necessary.
  • She has to remember the details of all the patients who called, so that she can provide further suggestions to improve their condition.
  • Follow-up is an important duty as well―she has to give a call back to the patients and report their condition.
  • If there has been improvement, she has to document the information. If the condition has worsened, she has to give proper directions to go to the right doctor. All changes must be recorded.
  • She also needs to provide essential patient education so that the same problem does not resurface.
  • You will need to have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree after your high school graduation.
  • Actually, you might need to work for a while as a registered nurse before moving on to the job of working over the telephone.
  • You can start working after your Associate's degree, or complete your Bachelor's degree in Nursing as well.
  • You can even complete the ENA (Emergency Nurses Association)-approved training program and obtain a certification from the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) for better career prospects.
  • The average annual salary range is considered to be between USD 45,000 to USD 60,000.
  • The figure, however, varies heavily considering a number of factors. This especially includes the geographical location and experience.
  • For instance, you might find that states like California and Georgia pay better than states like Hawaii and Nebraska.
  • The hourly rate for this profession is between USD 15 to USD 25.
  • The state-wise salary for a telephone triage registered nurse is given below.

Alabama USD 64,000
Alaska USD 46,000
Arizona USD 52,000
Arkansas USD 64,000
California USD 68,000
Colorado USD 56,000
Connecticut USD 73,000
Delaware USD 55,000
Florida USD 59,000
Georgia USD 72,000
Hawaii USD 39,000
Idaho USD 41,000
Illinois USD 72,000
Indiana USD 61,000
Iowa USD 62,000
Kansas USD 58,000
Kentucky USD 55,000
Louisiana USD 57,000
Maine USD 56,000
Maryland USD 65,000
Massachusetts USD 76,000
Michigan USD 64,000
Minnesota USD 55,000
Mississippi USD 66,000
Missouri USD 62,000
Montana USD 53,000
Nebraska USD 46,000
Nevada USD 48,000
New Hampshire USD 62,000
New Jersey USD 68,000
New Mexico USD 55,000
New York USD 77,000
North Carolina USD 60,000
North Dakota USD 56,000
Ohio USD 61,000
Oklahoma USD 58,000
Oregon USD 61,000
Pennsylvania USD 61,000
Rhode Island USD 58,000
South Carolina USD 62,000
South Dakota USD 48,000
Tennessee USD 59,000
Texas USD 61,000
Utah USD 49,000
Vermont USD 56,000
Virginia USD 64,000
Washington USD 65,000
West Virginia USD 60,000
Wisconsin USD 56,000
Wyoming USD 52,000
Source: as of January 14, 2015. Figures are in US Dollars.
Job Outlook
  • This is a very stressful and hectic job.
  • Remember that you are not a regular nurse―you do not have the patient in front of you; therefore, your assessment and guidance is solely dependent on your listening skills, understanding capability, and overall diagnostic abilities.
  • Experienced nurses may work from home as well; this is when you want to stay at home for a genuine reason or if you are a freelancer.
  • You may be worn-out by the end of the day as you will constantly be on call, just like an emergency ward nurse.
  • Every patient has a different problem; you need to be cautious so that you do not mix up patient details and give the wrong advice.
  • The BLS predicts a job growth of more than 15% over the next decade for this profession; this is not surprising, considering the demand for qualified health care professionals.
  • The population is increasing rapidly and diseases are also on the rise; therefore, telephone triage nurses will always be in demand, with people wanting to know the right step to be taken before massive treatment.

A telephone triage nurse is vigilant, patient, and well-versed in the medical field. She needs to keep updating her medical knowledge so that she can improve her diagnostic and assessment abilities as well as progress in her career.