What Does a Telephone Triage Nurse Do?

Nurse wearing a headset, working on a laptop.

In a desire to reduce costs and more easily treat a larger number of patients, healthcare providers are increasingly turning to telehealth as a solution. In 2012, an estimated 227,400 patients sought telehealth services; that number is expected to grow to 1.3 million this year.

While part of this dramatic increase is about cost-savings, there are other benefits to telehealth, too. Some patients have difficulty getting to hospitals or other healthcare facilities, and telehealth allows them to check in with doctors and nurses regularly when they otherwise might not be able to. Telehealth allows medical professionals to monitor implanted defibrillators or pacemakers and ensure they’re working properly. Use of telehealth can reduce rates of hospitalization and readmission, allowing patients to take care of routine medical issues without a doctor’s visit or trip to an urgent care clinic.

What Telephone Triage Nurses Do

Telephone triage nurses are registered nurses who administer care via telehealth services. Typically, this means speaking to patients over the phone, providing them with medical advice, evaluating and assessing their symptoms and consulting with physicians as needed. Much of what a telephone triage nurse does is answer questions and provide health education, so that patients can manage their own symptoms. However, there are several other modalities by which a telephone triage nurse can provide care.

Live Video

Live, two-way, synchronous video is a more advanced option compared to a simple phone call. The video component helps the nurse determine and assess symptoms more easily.

Store-and-Forward Video

Telephone triage nurses can create medical educational videos to send to patients. The benefit of this modality is that a nurse can create a single video and then forward it to multiple patients, saving valuable time and energy. However, this modality is asynchronous rather than live, meaning the patient has no meaningful way to interact with the nurse through the video. Store-and-forward videos can also be used to communicate patient histories to the nurse.

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Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

Primarily used to monitor medical equipment remotely, RPM helps nurses keep track of a patient’s health remotely, often without the patient needing to do anything out of the ordinary.

Mobile Health

Mobile apps can be used both for telehealth communication and for healthcare education. Such apps can be used to monitor and alert people about disease outbreaks or changes within their own health.

Telephone Triage Nursing Qualifications

A telephone triage nurse must be a registered nurse. While telephone triage nurses do not have the same clinical responsibilities as other nurses, they must have a strong grasp of technology and a sophisticated understanding of medical science. Communication skills are key, since a telephone triage nurse’s responsibilities involve communicating information and helping patients communicate information back.

Telephone Triage Nurse Salary and Outlook

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information on telephone triage nurses specifically, the median salary for registered nurses is $68,450 annually. Because the number of patients expected to use telehealth services is growing rapidly, a corresponding increase in telephone triage nursing jobs is likely. As hospitals continue to try to decrease costs while providing quality patient care to more people, telephone triage nurses will become increasingly necessary, making the job outlook for this career good.

Advancing Your Nursing Career

To become a telephone triage nurse, you’ll need a firm grasp of current medical science and technology. An online RN to BSN from Campbellsville University can help you obtain the skills you need to provide telehealth services to patients. Learn in a rigorous environment with a convenient, flexible schedule that fits into your busy life.