Triage nurses provide invaluable service toward expediting and organizing medical care. It is common for us to receive questions about triage nurses, what they do and how to enter the industry. We address some of those questions here.
Is a Triage Nurse the Same as an ER Nurse?
Questions about triage nurses vs ER nurses can be challenges because some nurses fill both roles. However, a good rule of thumb is that triage nurses are usually the first point of clinical contact for patients visiting an ER while primary ER nurses are typically the second.
A triage nurse is on the front lines of an emergency situation. He or she is responsible for assessing patients and determining the immediacy and degree of medical care needed. The primary nurse then conducts a more thorough assessment of the patient’s injury or illness and either begins treatment or transfers the patient to the provider who can better administer specific care.
While triage nurses commonly work in emergency departments, they can also be found in other facilities, including remote triage centers. Both triage nurses and primary ER nurses are essential personnel in administering emergency care.
What Are a Triage Nurse’s Daily Responsibilities?
Of course most questions about triage nurses boil down to what they actually do for a living. This query can prove difficult to answer succinctly since every day is different and as unique as the patients involved. Triage is a very nuanced process, but at its heart is the attempt to prioritize the care administered in medical settings to best care for as many patients as possible.
To meet that end, here are some of basic responsibilities of triage nurses who work in emergency departments:
- Conduct an initial patient assessment upon the patient’s arrival. This includes questioning the patient about his or her condition and holding a physical examination.
- Organize and arrange patient care by the severity.
- Transport patients to appropriate treatment areas.
- Innovate ways to reduce patient wait times and optimize the hospital’s patient queue.
- Interact with waiting patients and loved ones in the waiting room.
- Administer emergency medical treatment if necessary.
Triage may also be performed remotely, and while the goals remain the same, they are fulfilled through slightly different means:
- Assess patients via video chat or phone call. A physical examination is not possible in such cases.
- Make judgment calls on how patients should next seek treatment.
- Coordinate with hospital systems to provide patients with the care they need.
All triage nurses, regardless of whether they work in-person or remotely, must keep meticulous records of each triage session, input these into the appropriate databases, and communicate
Is Being Triage Nurse a Good Job?
One of the most pressing questions about triage nurses is whether or not the job is a good one. The answer depends entirely on the individual. Being a triage nurse has many pros and cons, and the weight of each relies on each prospective nurse’s preferences.
Triage nurses have a burden of responsibility that is inescapable. This includes both legal liability and the emotional burden of knowing that whatever happens to the patient is largely up to you. The work itself can also be difficult. People are not always at their best during emergencies, and sometimes they can even be mean.
The schedule can be very demanding, including weekends and nights and making planning vacations difficult. However, triage nurses are paid quite well, and the need for nurses in general is always high, which means finding a job is easier than in other industries.
If you secure a telephone triage position, you can offer medical help without ever being exposed to the pathogens patients carry. You also need only interact with one patient at a time and may even be able to work from home. Triage nurses also have a lot of access to support systems for both patients and healthcare professionals.
How Does One Become a Triage Nurse?
This is one the most frequently asked questions about triage nurses. We explore this further in our article “Everything You Should Know About Becoming a Triage Nurse,” but here are the highlights:
- Triage nurses must be registered nurses with current licensure.
- Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing can make triage nurse candidates more appealing candidates and can lead to more impressive salaries.
- Triage nurses should go through specific triage training courses to prepare them for the complexities of the job. These usually include emergency training, encompassing CPR and more advanced life support techniques in the event the nurse must stabilize a patient in the throes of a life-threatening situation.
- Triage nurse candidates will be more successful if they possess the ability to multitask and make decisions with limited information or under time constraints.
How Long Does It Take To Become a Triage Nurse?
Usually following other questions about triage nurses’ training, this query does depend on the route triage nurses take to the profession. Traditional BSN programs usually take 3–4 years to finish when tackled full-time. Anything other than full-time, especially starting without nursing training is likely to take longer.
If you have further questions about triage nurses and what they do, feel free to contact our team to learn more.