A telephone triage nurse works to assess patient needs and answer questions over the telephone. To perform this job, most companies require that the individual be an RN; salary depends on the type of employer and the job location. Telephone triage nurses are also called Tele-health nurses, and are often the first contact a patient will have when they seek advice or treatment for an acute condition. Telephone triage is ideal for experienced nurses, for nurses with pharmacology training, or for nurses with mobility issues, since the job can be performed while seated.
Registered nurses who enjoy working with and helping patients and have excellent verbal and communication skills are ideal candidates for this position. Since patients will be dealt with over the phone instead of in person, good verbal skills and problem solving skills are essential.
A telephone triage nurse may work for a doctor or practice, fielding patient questions and concerns after hours and determining if an office visit is required. Tele-health nurses are also employed by insurance companies and hospitals, and assess patient concerns and provide education and home care advice over the phone. Patient’s range from newborn to geriatric, all dependent on the employer and area of specialty.
Work Environment and Job Duties
A telephone triage nurse may work in a doctor’s office, hospital, a call center, or in a business office. Since this is not a hand’s on position, the nurse does not have to be in the same location as the patient; they may be fielding local calls or calls from across the country. Since the role of a telephone triage nurse is a remote one, the ability to communicate well and a background of clinical experience dealing with patients is helpful.
Tele-health nurses need to be able to assess patients based on the patient’s own evaluation and responses to questions. The telephone triage nurse will need to be able to refer the patient to a doctor if needed, or recommend a treatment plan. Depending on the employer, a telephone nurse can expect to perform some or all of the following functions:
•Answer patient calls on a wide range of topics, at any time of the day or night
•Ask the right questions to get the information needed to make an accurate assessment
•Use a computer to access patient records and search a database of possible conditions and treatments
•Provide clear patient information and education and give the caller advice on handling their situation
•Evaluate a patient over the phone and determine if emergency care is needed, or if the patient should be seen by a doctor.
Requirements and Education
A telephone triage nurse needs to be an RN (Registered Nurse) with hands on experience. Additional schooling in pharmacology, poison control or risk management is recommended, but employer requirements will vary. Since this is not a hands on position, it is an ideal choice for nurses with mobility issues or disabilities. Hours will vary based on location and the type of employer; calls may come in at any time of the day or night.
Salary and Career Outlook
A telephone triage nurse is a registered nurse, and should expect to receive about the same salary as a hands-on nurse with the same experience and training. Flexible hours and reduced mobility requirements may be an additional benefit to some candidates. The most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are from 2011; Registered Nurses had a median income of $70,000-73,000. Exact salary will vary based on the telephone nurse’s own background, experience and education levels.
The schedule for a telephone triage nurse is varied and depends on the employer and location. A nurse employed by a doctor’s office may field calls after hours or overnight, while working for an insurance company may yield a more regular 9-5 schedule.
The job outlook for all Registered nurses is considered to be very good for at least the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since telephone triage nurses serve patients of all ages and genders, and provide a valuable service to both patients and medical professionals and institutions, the long-term career outlook is positive.