Telephonic Triage Nurse

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Basic description

A telephone triage nurse provides a variety of services and information to patients over the phone. Most often, they are using written protocols to guide their practice and are determining the urgency of care needed and scheduling appointments or directing callers to health care providers as needed. Accordingly, the goal of this unique form of nursing is to decrease unnecessary visits to physicians, nurse practitioners, and the emergency room as well as to provide information for self-care. Some triage nurses working for medical practices or clinics may be familiar with the patient and their health status. More often, though, the nurse must use his or her excellent communication and information-gathering skills to determine the best course of action for the patient. Triage nurses deal with the entire spectrum, from healthy patients to the acute and chronically ill. Triage nurses usually have regular hours but there is no direct patient contact, and triage nurses may spend long hours at a desk on the telephone and computer. There are opportunities to work in a variety of settings such as medical offices, health maintenance organizations, insurance companies, hospitals, clinics, and triage centers.

Educational requirements

Registered nurse preparation and Bachelor of Science in Nursing are preferred. Previous emergency department or triage experience is highly desired for this role; Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support certifications are often required. Employers may require completion of Telehealth Nursing Practice Core Course.

Core competencies/skills needed

■ Previous experience with triage, either on the telephone or in an emergency room
■ Critical thinking skills
■ Ability to determine the problem within the first few sentences of a conversation; a certain intuitive ability can be useful in assessing the situation and making the correct decision for the patient
■ Superior verbal communication skills are essential
■ Strong assessment skills
■ Excellent clinical skills
■ Crisis intervention skills
■ Typing and computer ability to keep track of information gathered during the telephone conversation
■ Teaching ability, as patients may require instruction for self-care and/or symptom management
■ Ability to remain calm in high-stress situations

Related Web sites and professional organizations

■ All Health Net: Telephone Triage Nursing (
■ International Telenurses Association (
■ The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (

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