Triaging Patients on Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, most of us are thinking of all the delicious dishes and the quality time spent with family. But, while we are enjoying the holiday, many telephone triage nurses will be answering calls and triaging patients. They will be helping those who are faced with unexpected illness or injuries.
“Each holiday has it’s own special patient phone calls. On Thanksgiving, it is touching the hot turkey, spilling scalding hot gravy, or getting little fingers burned on the stove while ‘helping mom,’” said Marci Lawing, RN and Nurse Manager for TriageLogic. In addition to burns, foodborne illnesses are common during the holiday.
Telephone triage nurses working during the holiday, should take the opportunity to ask questions and educate patients. Explain ways they can prevent illnesses and accidents from occurring. Here are a few tips to share while triaging patients on Thanksgiving day:
Thawing Turkey: According to the CDC, “There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven.” Explain to your patients that leaving your turkey to thaw in the sink is not a safe scenario, as it will thaw unevenly, allowing bacteria to multiply.
Safe Prep: Educate patients on the dangers of cross contamination. The bacteria from poultry can contaminate your cutting board, utensils, counter, and anything else it comes in contact with. Remind patients to wash and sanitize all items that have been in contact with the raw turkey.
Cooking the Turkey: Patients may be putting themselves at risk when cooking the turkey. Let your patients know that for safe cooking, the CDC recommends to “Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed.” When checking the turkey, the CDC also instructs to place the food thermometer in the meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint. Be sure that the internal temperature reaches the safe minimum of 165°F.
Little Helpers: Kids love to help in the kitchen, but on the holidays it can be too hectic to give them the attention they need. Suggest safer ways for patients to let children participate. To prevent the risk of burns, suggest that their child help with preparation away from the stove and oven. Maybe they can butter the dinner rolls, or assign them as “the mixer” and allow them to mix anything that is not hot. They will feel involved and the parents won’t have to worry about keeping their little fingers from getting burned, as they juggle to cook multiple dishes.
Keep these tips in mind as you answer calls this week. Telephone triage nurses are valued and appreciated as they dedicate their Thanksgiving to answering patient calls. One more very serious tip- Just say, “no” to that third slice of pie. Save it for later.