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



By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

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 mindful that they play a critical role in ensuring that patients get the customized care directed by their physician. This is vital for consumer-focused patient care. That is why sophisticated triage systems have custom instructions and standing orders. These tailored directions are based on physician or practice preferences for triage nurses to follow once the appropriate care for the patient has been determined.

Telephone triage nurses are important in establishing that the patient’s doctor cares about their problem. Click To Tweet

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 function 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 and choosing the highest acuity protocol, disposition, and advising the patient per protocol guidelines, triage nurses need to keep in mind that they represent a specific physician or practice.

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

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

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 only with a patient for a few moments, it is vital that they gain their trust and provide the best care possible. 

When the patient call ends, their continuity of care is in the hands of their physician. Telephone triage nurses help the patient beyond the call when they nurture trust in the doctor they represent.

Ravi K. Raheja, MD, is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive triage solution includes integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over 7,000 physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com.