What Is a Telephone Triage Nurse?

A unique alternative nursing job, telephone triage nurse assists call-in patients in two primary ways. First, they can perform an initial evaluation over the phone to determine what type of care they may require. Second, they assist the patient in receiving that care, be it scheduling an appointment with the right type of doctor or making arrangements for them to be taken to a hospital, emergency room, or doctor’s office. When a trip to the hospital is not called for, the nurse can provide tips for self-care or can arrange for a home health aid to be dispatched to the patient’s location.

Telehealth services are becoming increasingly more common and can help home-bound patients receive the care they need when they need it. Most telehealth triage nurses have earned advanced nursing degrees and have several years of experience that allow them to make observations that are as accurate as possible based only on a telephone conversation. Many degree programs offer some form of triage training. This often takes the form of emergency or ambulatory care. Because nurses do not have physical access to the patient and all communication is verbal, the nurse must also be able to work quickly and efficiently without causing the patient to become nervous or afraid.

What Is the Job Description for a Telephone Triage Nurse?

The job description for a telephone triage nurse involves performing patient assessments. When a patient calls in, the telephone triage nurse takes all of their personal information and begins the assessment process. Since the nurse does not have physical access to the patient, they will have to get the information they need by asking as many detailed questions as possible. They will need to find out what symptoms the patient is having, the severity of those symptoms, and how long the patient has been experiencing them.

Telehealth systems offer round the clock services. This means that telephone triage nurses must be able to work overnights and weekends. As part of their job, it is also up to the nurse to be able to assist patients in finding the care they need. This is often in the form of referrals and scheduling appointments with caregivers or doctors’ offices. Telephone triage nurses can also assist in arranging for in-home health care. This is vital for patients who have no means of transportation and are essentially considered to be “shut-ins”.

Does a Telephone Triage Nurse Need a Special Certification?

In most cases, telephone triage nurses are already licensed and registered nurses with many years of experience. Many of the nurses who apply for the position of telephone triage nurse have experience with ambulatory, emergency or trauma care. Although certification is not needed, it is recommended. The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing offers a certification option that includes telephone triage. Receiving this type of certification not only proves you are capable of assisting patients but that you have a higher earning potential as well.

Taking the certification test and passing will help registered and licensed nurses to meet their continuing education requirements for their state licensing as well as keep them up to date on the latest trends in telehealth nursing. Many schools that offer Bachelors and Masters degree programs in Nursing, also offer training in telephone triage. Although this isn’t necessarily considered a certification, having received the information as part of a higher degree program, the nurse that earns the degree can still claim they have received the necessary training to become a telephone triage nurse.

How Much Does a Telephone Triage Nurse Make?

A telephone triage nurse’s salary averages approximately $70,000 per year. The range, however, can extend in either direction from $65,000 to $80,000. Entry-level positions will receive the lowest pay, but as the nurse gains more experience opportunities for advancement and higher earnings will continue to present themselves. This field is growing incredibly fast and offers many different opportunities for nurses who want to work in a fast-paced, very rewarding career.

Telephone triage nurses provide valuable assistance to patients who may not have any other means of receiving care. The more experience a nurse has, the higher her starting wage will be and the more responsibility she will carry throughout her career. If a nurse is working with an Associates or Bachelors degree, it may be a good idea to return to school to earn a Masters degree. The additional information will make it easier for them to accurately perform their duties and provide patients with the quality of care they deserve.

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