How did your nursing journey begin?
I’ve had a fairly complicated nursing education starting with failing my first program. From there I decided not to waste all those credits so when to PN school. When my children were very young I went back to school ror a year to earn an Associate Degree from Iowa Western Community College where I graduated with honors. Failure isn’t final.
How did you get into telephone triage nursing?
After several years moving from one nursing field to another I landed a job at a local hospice which included case management and triage. That experience and being able to use a computer (this was 20 years ago, computers in nursing were not as prevelent as today) were valuable in landing my current job in telephone triage.
What does a typical shift look like in telephonic triage nursing?
We are a general nursing triage service, all ages and any health care questions we will try to address. We work with insurance, medicare/medicaid systems in several states, hospital, university health care systems as well as private physician offices. A lot of parents call for their children, of any age. We hear from elderly with complicated co-morbidities, college students, some homeless, mental health concerns including those with suicidal ideation at times. We also deal with pregnancy questions and now we are taking COVID-19 questions. Anything goes!
On a typical shift calls begin as soon as I log in. For most calls the initial contact is with a service rep (a non-medical person) who takes demographics and chief complaints. Depending on the call center the call is either place in a que to be dropped to the next available nurse or red flagged and transferred to a nurse or immediate attention. The goal of telephone triage nursing is to assess the situation and based on the information provided by the patient or caregiver, get the patient to the most appropriate level of care (from home care to 911) as quickly and safely as possible. Our national standard goal is a to facilitate a call and provide appropriate recommendation within 12 minutes.
What do you recommend to nurses that are looking into getting into this type of nursing?
Telephone triage is not a job for everyone. You must be an RN who is at least somewhat computer literate. Experience is key. This is not a job for a new graduate. You also have to be able to sit for a long period, Even though many of us work from home, when you are at work that is your only job. You can’t be running back and forth taking care of the kids or pets or doing laundry while on the clock. There simply is not time. This is a great job for someone who likes working independently, wants a lot of variety, and metal challenge. It is also a great job for someone who whats to extend their nursing career but may not be physically able to floor work. I have been a telephone triage nurse for almost 20 years, I am actually certified as a triage nurse via NCC. (that certification is no longer offered) It is the best nursing job I have ever had.
Thank you, Kendra for sharing your story!
If you or someone you know would want to share your nurse story, please contact me! Nurses love to learn about a variety of options in our profession!