Quick Facts :
Telephone Triage Nurse

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Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses, May 2017

info-icon Bachelor's
info-icon $73,550 Annual Wage
info-icon 15% Job Growth

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What Is a Telephone Triage Nurse?

Telephone triage is known by a few different names, including telehealth nursing and telepathology. This medical specialty is designed to help patients who are unable to get to a doctor’s office or hospital determine the level of care they may need. Unlike other types of medical specialties, however, professionals that work in telephone triage must help patients determine this purely by speaking to them on the phone. The majority of medical professionals that work in this field are licensed nurses, known as telephone triage nurses.

Telehealth services have a number of advantages over traditional healthcare services. First and foremost, a telephone triage nurse can easily assist patients to assess the severity of their health problems, without them having to visit a doctor or hospital. This is especially helpful to patients that find it difficult to get to a medical facility or pay for medical services. Telephone triage nurses also help doctors reduce their patient load by helping patients with very minor health issues determine whether or not they need emergency medical attention, which can reduce overcrowding and waiting time in emergency medical facilities.

The majority of telephone triage services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because of this, telephone triage nurses may be required to work odd hours, including night shifts.

As a telephone triage nurse, you must possess excellent communication skills and be able to think on your feet. In particular, you must be able to listen to patients, assess their individual situations quickly, and explain what type of care they may need.

What Do Telephone Triage Nurses Do?

Telephone triage nurses are responsible for answering calls from patients and assessing their medical needs. Telephone triage nurses do not have the ability to physically examine the individuals so they must make a decision based on the inputs of the patient.

The first step for a telephone triage nurse is to gather basic information about the patient. This begins with basic information about the identity, age, sex, weight, and height of a patient. To accurately assess patients and recommend the proper level of care, these nurses will also ask patients about their symptoms, existing health problems, and any relevant history of medical issues.

Once all of this information has been collected, a telephone triage nurse should be able to assess a patient’s condition rather quickly. The nurse will then recommend an appropriate level of care, based on these details, and possibly point them toward additional resources. For example, if a patient is experiencing heavy bleeding due to an injury, a telephone triage nurse will urge the patient to seek emergency medical attention. On the other hand, if a patient is experiencing a minor medical problem, such as mild cold symptoms, a telephone triage nurse may give them advice on how to ease the symptoms and advise them to make an appointment with their doctor.

Additionally, if a patient does not have a regular doctor, a telephone triage nurse can refer them to local doctors in their area. Also, these nurses may also give out information that they believe their patients may find useful. For instance, they may advise low-income individuals of social welfare programs that can help them pay for necessary medical care.

Where Do Telephone Triage Nurses Work?

You may be able to find employment as a telephone triage nurse in a few different settings. The most common places of employment for telephone triage nurses have dedicated telephone triage service centers. However, physician offices, hospitals, outpatient care facilities, trauma centers, poison control centers, and crisis hotlines also hire telehealth professionals.

How Do I Become a Telephone Triage Nurse?

To become a telephone triage nurse, you will first need to earn your nursing degree or diploma and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Although the National Certification Corporation offered telephone nursing certification at one time, this certification is no longer available as of 2007. Today, telephone nursing professionals that are seeking certification are urged to obtain certification as an ambulatory care nurse. This certification examination is offered by the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing and contains a section that focuses on telephone triage. To be eligible to take the examination, you must also have a minimum of 2,000 hours of nursing experience in a clinical setting.