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How do I Become a Phone Triage Nurse?

Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland

In order to become a phone triage nurse, you must be a confident nurse, a great communicator and a quick decision maker. These skills are developed over time and with education. You must dedicate a great deal of effort to the cause, but you will someday be able to speak to patients over the phone and help determine the seriousness of their illness and what the next step in their recovery should be.

Every country has different requirements to become a phone triage nurse. For example, in the United States, you must have a bachelor's degree in nursing and be a registered nurse. There are no certifications required to work the phone triage department, but seeking out additional education on phone communication, determining illness over the phone and learning more about specialized health areas will help you secure a job.

Phone nurses must be able to use the knowledge they have without any visual aid from the patient.
Phone nurses must be able to use the knowledge they have without any visual aid from the patient.

Your nursing history will give you a great understanding of the human body and its many ailments. Phone nurses must be able to use this knowledge without any visual aid from the patient, because they are on the phone. The nurse also must be able to interpret nonverbal signs such as strained breathing when a patient is complaining of chest pains.

In order to become a phone triage nurse, you must be prepared to operate a telephone line, much like a switchboard operator, and know how to think on your feet. On any given day, you could be talking to people with chest pains, stomach cramps, a broken arm or a bloody nose and would need the knowledge and experience to listen to symptoms and make a recommendation about seeking treatment. Phone triage nurses are expected to act quickly, because a few minutes could be a matter of life or death in some situations.

In a typical call center, a phone triage nurse sits at a desk with a hands-free phone headset.
In a typical call center, a phone triage nurse sits at a desk with a hands-free phone headset.

Understanding the computer software also is an essential talent to become a phone triage nurse. Most hotlines will have the nurse enter information ranging from sex, age, medical history and current problem into a computer. Its algorithm will make suggested diagnoses of the patient. Nurses must have excellent attention to detail and strong computer skills in order to enter and comprehend this data swiftly.

Phone triage nurses must diagnose a variety of ailments.
Phone triage nurses must diagnose a variety of ailments.

To become a phone triage nurse, you must take all of your nursing knowledge and use it to determine a patient's needs over the phone. For many nurses, this is more difficult than face-to-face meetings and requires a sharp understanding of the human body. By gathering practical information, being a great communicator and making fast decisions, phone triage nurses help save lives.

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    • Phone nurses must be able to use the knowledge they have without any visual aid from the patient.
      By: Gajus
      Phone nurses must be able to use the knowledge they have without any visual aid from the patient.
    • In a typical call center, a phone triage nurse sits at a desk with a hands-free phone headset.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      In a typical call center, a phone triage nurse sits at a desk with a hands-free phone headset.
    • Phone triage nurses must diagnose a variety of ailments.
      By: leschnyhan
      Phone triage nurses must diagnose a variety of ailments.