By Marci Lawing, RN, BSN and Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Last week we wrote a blog discussing the basic qualities required to be a good telephone triage nurse (see article). Once those qualities exist, the nurse is then ready to move on to training to become a great telephone triage nurse.
What does it take to become an effective telephone triage nurse?
Training, Training and More Training
There are many, many hours of training that are put in before a nurse even gets to take a “live” patient call.
Academic learning: Nurses start by reading training materials, in particular modules that will help her understand her role as a telephone triage nurse. The Schmitt-Thompson protocols and call center policies and procedures including requirements for URAC accredited health call centers are part of this training. See triagelogic.com/protocols for more information.
Mock Calls: A new telephone triage nurse’s brain must be reprogrammed and her thought process re-routed, so that all those assessment checks she used to see, feel and touch now must come from the words of her caller/patient. This requires hours and hours of mock call training. As triage managers and trainers, we engage the help of other nurses to be the “patients” and let the trainee be the “nurse”. In this way, she learns to communicate and listen as another person presents her with scenarios. She also learns to navigate the TriageLogic software and explore the hundreds of Schmitt/Thompson protocols she can use as a tool to assist in her decision making process.
Observing Live calls: While practice and listening to calls is very important, nurses also need to be comfortable making decisions quickly once they get on the phone. To help with real-life practice, nurses log on to TriageLogic’s web-based program and actually see/listen to a more experienced nurse take live patient calls. This task further allows the new nurse to hear patient-and-nurse interactions and see what questions the nurse asks and what decisions she is making with the goal of getting the patient to the right level of care given the symptoms.
The first LIVE call:
No training would be complete without having the trainer listen to the trainee take “live” patient calls. Nerve wracking as it is, I relate it to the first time I gave a shot in nursing school with all my colleagues surrounding me – talk about pressure! Even the most “book prepared” nurse is going to be nervous when she first starts taking calls. There is no easy way: jumping into the deep end and taking the phone call is the only way to get over those first call jitters.
In the next week, we will be writing about tips and challenges for trained and experienced Telephone Triage Nurses. Feel free to make comments and give us feedback if there are any topics that you would like us to discuss.
And don’t forget: if you like the article, please share it with other nurses, triage managers and anyone else looking for more information on how to be an effective telephone triage nurse.
About the authors:
Ravi Raheja, MD Medical Director and COO of TriageLogic, is a board certified pediatrician who saw a need for effective triage services and founded TriageLogic in 2005.
Marci Lawing, RN, BSN is a nurse manager with TriageLogic and handles hiring, training and nurse triage.