Medical professional using a headset

How to Become a Telephone Triage Nurse

Duties, Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Medical professional using a headset

Telephone Triage Nurses provide a very specialized service in the field of healthcare. Not only do they assist patients over the phone or through video chat, but they help determine whether the caller needs to seek emergency care, schedule an appointment with a physician, or treat themselves at home.

We’ve put together a comprehensive career guide to help you develop a greater understanding of the role of a Telephone Triage Nurse. One of the most unique aspects of choosing this career is the ability to carry out your duties from the comfort of your own home. In fact, this nursing specialty has also been featured among our list of the top work from home nursing jobs.

(Click here to see our full list of the best work from home nursing jobs)

Continue reading to learn more about the requirements, responsibilities, training, salary, and job outlook of Telephone Triage Nurses.

Telephone Triage Nurse Definition

What is a Telephone Triage Nurse?

Telephone Triage Nurses help patients ascertain what kind of care they need over the phone. These nursing professionals typically offer a brief assessment of the patient and help them determine whether they require emergency care or not. They can also help the patient make an appointment with a physician or develop a plan to treat themselves at home.

Telephone Triage Nurse Duties & Responsibilities

What Does a Telephone Triage Nurse Do?

Telephone Triage Nurses answer calls from patients and assess their medical needs by performing an over-the-phone consultation. Because they cannot physically examine their patients, Telephone Triage Nurses must make decisions solely based on their information.

Their first step of a phone consultation is to gather the patient’s basic information, including the patient’s identity, age, sex, weight, and height. They will then ask the patient about their symptoms as well as any pre-existing health problems or relevant history. After gathering that information, a Telephone Triage Nurse will then assess the patient’s condition and makes the appropriate recommendation for their care going forward.

Some of the day-to-day job responsibilities of a Telephone Triage Nurse include:

  • Scheduling appointments and referring patients to specialists as needed
  • Consulting with patients via the phone
  • Educating patients on various ways to manage their symptoms
  • Staying current on the latest medical record technology
  • Supporting medical response teams in coordinating/transporting patients to the hospital
  • Collecting necessary information, such as age, weight, height, etc.
  • Swiftly assessing the severity of a patient’s condition before recommending an appropriate level of care based on all the details provided
  • Being aware of the right questions to ask based on the information provided
  • Helping medical teams in reducing their patient load
  • Giving medical advice to patients with common/minor health issues
  • Efficiently triaging patients based on the criteria of the nurse’s employer

Asian medical professional

Where Do Telephone Triage Nurses Work?

Telephone Triage Nurses may have the opportunity to work remotely or in-person for healthcare facilities such as:

  • Clinics
  • Crisis hotlines
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Trauma centers
  • Poison control centers
  • COVID-19 hotlines
  • Managed care
  • Telephone triage centers
  • Doctor’s offices

Telephone Triage Nurse Hours

Because many telephone triage nursing services are available 24/7, these virtual nurses may work more than 40 hours per week. In addition, they likely work some evenings or weekends. On-call shifts can also create odd hours for Telephone Triage Nurses.

Telephone Triage Nurse Skills

Becoming a Telephone Triage Nurse might be a great fit for you if you:

  • Have an empathetic nature
  • Are emotionally stable
  • Employ effective communication skills
  • Excel at decision making and problem solving
  • Have a strong desire to learn
  • Are openminded, versatile, and respectful
  • Like to be flexible and adaptable
  • Possess strong organizational skills
  • Are extremely reliable

Telephone Triage Nurse Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Telephone Triage Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Telephone Triage Nurse?

Becoming a Telephone Triage Nurse will likely take a minimum of four years. For example, an ADN degree alone could take about two years to complete, whereas a BSN degree would likely require three to four years.

In addition, you will usually need to obtain two to five years of bedside or RN experience before applying. Once you’ve gained this experience, you’ll complete a background check and ensure you possess an unrestricted RN license. You must also have a dependable Internet connection and great computer skills.

If you’d like to become a Telephone Triage Nurse, then you’ll likely need to follow these steps:

1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree

The first thing you’ll need to do is earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited program. To be accepted into most BSN programs, candidates are required to submit several standard application materials, such as academic transcripts, GRE scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.

Core nursing classes during a BSN program may include the following topics:

  • Professional nursing
  • Health assessment
  • Family nursing
  • Medical and surgical care
  • Nursing management
  • Psychosocial nursing

Close up of a man taking notes

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Licensure Exam

Possibly the most important milestone for aspiring nurses is the RN licensure exam. Before you can become a Registered Nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) developed two exams to test the competence of aspiring RNs and LPNs/LVNs. Learn more about the NCLEX and what to expect with this detailed FAQ section.

3. Gain Experience Working as a Nurse

It’s essential that you gain a minimum of two years in bedside nursing before applying for a position as a Telephone Triage Nurse. In fact, many Telephone Triage Nurses also have experience in the ER or intensive care nursing. The truth is that new graduates aren’t usually hired for telephone triage nursing positions, so gaining this experience is vital to your success.

4. Consider Acquiring Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification.

Although there isn’t a specific certification for Telephone Triage Nursing, many Telephone Triage Nurses acquire Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (AMB-BC™).

Check the following requirements to ensure you’re qualified to sit for this certification exam:

  • Maintain a current, active RN license
  • Complete the equivalent of two years work as an RN (full time)
  • Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in ambulatory care nursing within the last 3 years
  • Completed 30 hours of continuing education in ambulatory care nursing within the last 3 years

To learn more, you can find lots of helpful information from the following organizations:

(Click here to learn how to become a nurse)

Telephone Triage Nurse School Cost

So, how much does it cost to become a Telephone Triage Nurse? As previously discussed, many aspiring Telephone Triage Nurses will earn BSN degree before pursuing this career path.

Tuition fees for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree often depend on the school. However, you can likely expect to spend anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000.

Below are some other considerations to keep in mind before you pick where you’ll be earning your BSN degree:

  • Tuition costs do not always include expenses like books, program fees, or other mandatory fees
  • Most schools offer some form of financial aid

Infographic of an online graduate

Work from Home Opportunities

Telephone Triage Nurses are often allowed to work from home due to the nature of their position. In order to do work remotely, they must have access to a home office setup with a work computer, office phone line, and headset.

While Telephone Triage Nurses usually find work in clinics, crisis hotlines, outpatient care centers, and other medical facilities, they can also find remote positions that allow them to work outside of a healthcare facility. Look for Telephone Triage Nurse listings on job recruiting sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, FlexJobs, LinkedIn, etc.

Telephone Triage Nurse’s Salary

How Much Does a Telephone Triage Nurse Make?

While the average Telephone Triage Nurse salary is about $77,000 per year, or $38.00 per hour, reports that the typical salary range falls between $70,000 and $87,000. However, Telephone Triage Nurses who earn salaries in the 90th percentile can make more than $96,000 per year!

(Click here to learn about the highest paid nursing jobs)

Telephone Triage Nurse Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide statistics for Telephone Triage Nurses at this time, they have projected overall growth for Registered Nurses throughout the next decade.

According to the BLS, employment of RNs is expected to increase 7 percent by 2029. The mounting emphasis on preventive care in our nation’s healthcare system is one of many factors that have contributed to these projections.

Medical professional on the phone

Why Pursue a Career as a Telephone Triage Nurse

Telephone Triage Nurses devote their time to the service and care of others. Moreover, they assist patients with difficult medical situations over the phone. In our ever changing world, Telephone Triage Nurses provide the public with quick and easy access to sound medical advice.

In addition to making a difference in the community, Telephone Triage Nurses have a sunny career outlook, decent salaries, and job stability.

If you’re an aspiring nurse but don’t know where to begin, you can earn your Vocational Nursing diploma, BSN degree, or enroll in another nursing programs at Unitek College.