Triage nurses play a critical role in helping patients determine whether they should be seen in-person by a doctor, or can manage their symptoms at home. But triage education can also be a challenge, especially because nurses must understand the best ways to assist patients they cannot see. Some medical schools offer nurse triage training, but there are several skills that may not be taught as thoroughly. Here are the ones we know are the most important.
1. Answering a Variety of Patient Calls
Triage competency requires nurses to answer a wide variety of calls: not simply addressing an array of patient symptoms, but also responding to different emotional states, tones of voice, patients who are impaired or confused, patients who are in dangerous situations, background noise, and more. All the while, nurses must remain calm, polite, professional, attentive, and empathetic to address patients’ needs and obtain accurate information from them.
2. Encouraging Patients to Share Medical History
Some patients present symptoms that they hesitate to mention, either because they’re not interested in going to the doctor, or they’re worried about the associated costs. It’s important that triage nurses get a full picture of all of their symptoms to properly assess how high-risk they may be.
Doing so often requires gaining patient trust and demonstrating how the information they’re providing will help nurses to advise them on the best courses of action. Nurses also need to know the right questions to ask to elicit important information from each patient, so that they can use Schmitt-Thompson triage protocols to determine which type of provider is appropriate for evaluating them.
3. Assessing Emergency Calls
Triage nurses must be trained on how to quickly assess emergency calls and determine if the patient needs to go to a hospital’s ER or an urgent care. If a nurse determines that an emergency department is needed, they’ll encourage the caller to dial 911.
It’s worth noting that a nurse should not force a patient to go to an ER if they refuse, nor should they call 911 against their wishes. The nurse should reiterate why they’re advising ER care, and offer to stay on the line with the patient until they’re speaking with a 911 operator — or to call them back in five minutes if the patient only has one line of communication they can use.
If the patient continues to refuse emergency care, the triage nurse must have a means of notating this refusal in the patient’s file. This is usually easier when the nurse has access to integrated nurse triage software.
4. Dealing With Angry or Uncooperative Patients
As we already mentioned, triage nurses must be trained on how to react to all types of patient callers, some more difficult than others. This includes those who are angry or uncooperative. Triage nurses must leverage the same empathetic listening and encouragement to defuse these tense situations and convince callers to offer them the information that they need.
This doesn’t mean that nurses should tolerate abuse. Instead, they should know how to professionally inform combative patients that they will not continue their calls if they are spoken to in a threatening or vulgar manner. If any patient persists after two warnings, the nurse can advise the patient that they will be contacting the patient’s provider on their behalf to address their medical concerns.
Nurses must also be trained on how to address cases involving mental health, child abuse, frustrated parents, as well as callers who are difficult to understand.
5. Using Telehealth Protocols
Triage nurses should receive training on relevant telehealth protocols as they apply to a specific practice (if that practice offers telehealth service). Those include the ability to verify when patients are eligible for telehealth visits and, if so, if the nurses are able to schedule them on behalf of those patients.
6. Providing Thorough Documentation
Triage nurses need to be trained on how to document patient interactions accurately and thoroughly, as much for continuity of care as for the practice’s quality assurance and liability.
7. Following Doctors’ Orders
Some doctors may want their triage nurses to recommend specific OTC medications, referral providers, or weekend scheduling options based on the preferences of their practice. Triage nurses should use these doctors’ orders to help them create customized paths to patient care.
8. Adjusting to Remote Care
Nurses who enter triage programs must be comfortable providing care remotely, which can be challenging as they cannot touch or see their patients. They must also excel in three types of listening.
Nurse Triage Training Options
At TriageLogic, we offer a comprehensive training and certification course for triage nurses that covers all of these skills and more — including the use of sophisticated, customizable AI software that prepares them for the wide range of calls they are likely to receive.
You can review some of the basics of that program by accessing our free content available in our Learning Center.
Would You Like to Discuss Nurse Triage Training?
Successful nurse triage training can improve patient health outcomes and save providers substantial revenue. We’d be happy to share more information with you about our nurse triage course and its certification. Contact us today to get started.
TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of top-quality nurse telehealth technology, remote patient monitoring, and medical call center solutions. Founded in 2007, the TriageLogic Group now serves more than 22,000 physicians and covers over 42 million lives nationwide.