How Telephone Triage Nurses Act As An Extension of Physicians and Practices

In an era where there are multiple sources of medical advice and people frequently use ‘Google’ to get answers, Telephone Triage Nurses need to be very mindful that we play a critical role in ensuring that patients get the customized care directed by their physician, even when the office is closed. This is vital for consumer-focused patient care. That is why sophisticated triage systems have custom instructions and standing orders — tailored instructions based on physician or practice preferences for triage nurses to follow after the appropriate care for the patient has been determined.

What Are Custom Orders?

Custom orders are additional instructions that physicians and practices add to existing protocols. An example would be telling the patient to take ibuprofen over Tylenol, or sending them to a certain ER or urgent care facility. Custom orders are designed to help the triage nurse to act as an extension of the doctor, without having to always call the on-call doctor. With custom orders, patients are provided continuity of care, reassurance, and the ability for the physician to follow up with their patient the next day.

How To Properly Represent the Physician and Group

Through the triage process of assessing the patient, choosing highest acuity protocol, disposition, and then advising the patient per protocol guidelines, triage nurses need to keep in mind that we represent a very specific physician and group or practice.

Since we never see the patient in person, it is important that triage nurses provide the empathy and care that will make them feel better. They are not just a voice over the phone with a problem for us to solve. Every phone call has an impact, and one of the best ways we can care for patients is to establish and affirm the trust they have in their provider.

When giving the protocol advice, first check for any specific practice orders that apply to the situation. Then, as you advise, use phrases like, “Your doctor would like you to…” or “Your doctor cares very much about their patients and would want you to…”

In summary, telephone triage nurses are important in establishing that the patient’s doctor cares about their problem. They are a crucial link to the patient trusting the care and advice of their physician. Since triage nurses are with a patient for a brief moment, it is vital that we gain their trust and provide the best care. When we end the patient call, their continuity of care is in the hands of their physician. We help the patient beyond our call when we nurture that trust in the doctor we represent.

Download our Free eBook “Telephone Nurse Triage Handbook” to learn more about telephone nurse triage.​

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