What Is It Like to be a Telephone Advice Nurse?


Are you interested in becoming an RN but not sure you want to work directly with patients in person? Consider becoming a telephone advice nurse. As a telephone advice nurse, you’ll manage healthcare for patients over the phone and on the Internet. Patients will call you to seek advice about a wide variety of ailments. Many people call for simple answers to basic questions. Still, others may face complex situations where they need comfort and reassurance. You’ll help a high volume of people daily. For example, you might help someone facing difficult medical conditions for which they don’t know what to do or advice someone that is not sure if they should test for influenza. So, what is it like to b a telephone advice nurse?

What Is It Like to be a Telephone Advice Nurse?

A telephone advice nurse manages high call volumes and works for insurance companies and medical facilities. For example, you may work in a call center designed for medical questions. In addition, as a telephone advice nurse, you might work remotely from your home.

A typical consultation with a patient over the phone may start with a basic question. However, as the call progresses, you might collect a health history from the patient to better understand how to treat and advise them. A patient and their family’s medical history reveals their existing medical conditions and informs you of hereditary diseases that the person could develop. For example, suppose the caller has symptoms such as high blood pressure or mild to severe chest pain. In that case, knowing if cardiovascular disease runs in their family is beneficial.

Address Their Chief Concern

The callers present you with their chief medical concern, and as the telephone advice nurse, you guide them through what they should do next. Following the above example, a caller experiencing mild chest pain could have one of many various conditions, including gastrointestinal issues. However, suppose they are experiencing severe chest pain. In that case, you or the caller need to contact emergency services as the caller could be experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

Completing Phone Triage

There are many reasons why phone triage is necessary. Telephone advice nurses perform phone triage under circumstances where medical facilities have a higher volume of incoming patients. For example, an epidemic or pandemic presents increased risks for patients who come to the ER and must wait a long time. So instead, a telephone advice nurse collects information from the patients, including why they need medical services and what symptoms they are experiencing. After they enter these patient details into the medical center’s IT system, the patients avoid long waits and get to an examination room faster.

The Importance of Emergency Identification Details

As a telephone advice nurse, you may ask for emergency identification details. The information provides important facts to add to the patient’s medical file. For example, some patients wear Medic-Alert jewelry that signifies if they have a pre-existing medical condition such as epilepsy or diabetes.

The same emergency identification details inform emergency care workers if the patient is allergic to medications or medical supplies. As a telephone advice nurse, you may need to contact emergency services to help a patient with these details to save their life.

Educating Others On the Phone

Telephone advice nurses educate others over the phone, including medical staff and callers from the general public. You will obtain the training, knowledge, and experience to manage medical crises and circumstances requiring advice or medical treatment. As a telephone advice nurse, you’ll have an extensive understanding of medical procedures and treatments and how these services could improve the caller’s health or the patient they are treating.

Collaborating with Other Medical Professionals

Collaboration with other medical professionals can save lives and improve the standard of care patients receive. For example, as a telephone advice nurse, you could discuss cases with a doctor. These discussions could help diagnose a patient based on population health data that is available to you that the doctor hasn’t seen.

A medical professional could call to inquire about a patient and determine if they were prescribed medications that could lead to dangerous drug interactions. Unfortunately, a patient that enters the emergency room unconscious cannot inform the staff what medications they are taking. However, a telephone advice nurse working in the doctor’s office where patients receive treatment could access their files. By providing advice and information, telephone advice nurses shape new protocols for treating patients and enable other medical professionals to perform their job.

Where Can an Advice Nurse Work?

As an advice nurse, each position gives you opportunities to take on different roles. The part you play depends on where you work and who will likely contact you for advice or assessment. Here are a few places where a telephone advice nurse may work.

Working for Insurance Companies

Telephone advice nurses assist insurance members with health-related symptoms. As a telephone advice nurse, an insurance member will call with a chief concern, and you must identify the symptoms they are experiencing and any medications they have been prescribed. You will triage these patients and either give them advice or refer them to their primary care physician. In the case of an emergency, you will instruct patients to go to the emergency room.

A Private Practice or Doctor’s Office

A telephone advice nurse at a doctor’s office would complete triage tasks and answer questions about a patient’s symptoms. You will help patients determine if they should schedule an appointment with the doctor or if their symptoms are treatable with OTC medications. Under circumstances where allowing patients into the private practice presents health risks, a telephone advice nurse can safely manage triage and improve the flow of patients in and out of the office.

Outpatient Care Facilities

In an outpatient care facility like urgent care centers, you’ll provide answers for patients in your local community. Patients may call about testing for seasonal illnesses or to determine if the facility is equipped to manage specific conditions. For example, patients get involved in accidents and may need wound care. You’ll tell the callers if your facility is suited for treatment or if the patient should visit an ER instead.

Helping at Crisis Hotlines

Crisis hotlines are vital to the public and address circumstances that could change unpredictably. Telephone advice nurses use their skills to manage mental health-related problems, suicide prevention, and help individuals through difficult situations.

Trauma Centers

In trauma centers, telephone advice nurses provide compassionate help for families with a loved one who is critically ill or injured. In addition, you may manage incoming calls about the status of the patients and advise families.

Hospitals or Major Medical Centers

Telephone advice nurses in hospitals or medical centers handle incoming calls about various conditions. For example, they may redirect patients according to which ER is open. The nurses instruct callers in all circumstances involving poison control or household accidents. The nurses manage high-volume calls instructing callers on how to perform first aid. They may offer triage services when a hospital has higher than average admissions or ER patients.

How Do You Become a Registered Nurse?

Telephone advice nurses must become registered nurses. As you begin on this career path, you will attend a vocational school program to get an Associate of Science in Nursing Degree. You’ll get the practical skills, hands-on training, and experience to work in medical facilities as an RN. These programs will also prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

What Do You Learn During a Vocational Nursing Program?

During the Registered Nursing program, you complete coursework and gain hands-on experience. Your mastery of the coursework isn’t based on test scores alone. Instructors monitor how well you cultivate skills to perform vital medical services that you’ll perform in the field. In some courses, you gain practical skills by working with patients or through simulations. By the program’s end, you’ll be treating patients and managing their care.

Foundations of Patient Care

The foundations of patient care course shows you how to manage care for patients and what protocols to follow. Essentials for treating patients help you manage patients under various circumstances. You’ll also learn what is expected of you in different departments and what you’ll do as an RN.

Complex Medical Surgical Nursing

In complex medical-surgical nursing, you’ll put your knowledge to the test and learn to assess patients according to ethical or cultural attributes. You will use healthcare practices to decrease the onset of illnesses and provide treatments to maintain proper health. You will also gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills you’ll use in the field.

Maternal and Pediatric Care

In maternal and pediatric care, you discover how to manage care for expectant mothers in the labor and delivery department. You’ll gain practical skills to transition patients from the different stages of labor to postpartum units. The course addresses pregnancy complications and how to manage pediatric care for newborns. In addition, you’ll learn how to address nutrition and illness prevention for infants. At the end of the course, you’ll have the skills to provide healthcare services in maternal or pediatric departments in different medical centers.

Surgical Nursing

The surgical nursing courses introduce you to nursing protocols in a surgical setting. You learn how nurses assist in the operating room and will get hands-on experience to supplement classroom lectures. In these settings, you’ll assist surgeons by maintaining sterile surgical instruments and ensure access to sterile supplies and equipment.

Gerontological Nursing

Gerontological nursing courses introduce you to practical skills for providing healthcare to the elderly. These skills are vital for addressing the health and well-being of elderly patients in doctor’s offices, medical centers, and nursing homes. In addition, you will discover conditions that affect the elderly, such as dementia and gain training to advocate for these patients, while ensuring that they receive appropriate care.

Final Thoughts

As a telephone advice nurse, you’ll work for various facilities and manage the care of a high volume of patients. This position gives you access to patients and other medical professionals who need your guidance and support. Advice nursing is a rewarding career choice and lets you give back to your community. Starting a vocational program today is your first step to changing your life and the lives of others.

Registered Nursing Program

The Associate of Science in Nursing degree program provides training to prepare you to enter the profession as a registered nurse (RN). Upon successful completion of the nursing training degree program and demonstrated nursing competence, you will be eligible to apply to take the NCLEX-RN licensure examination.*  

*While Gwinnett Institute provides test preparation and review assistance to college students, it cannot guarantee any college student will be able to take or pass any type of licensure exam. College students must be mindful throughout their entire training program that licensure is a prerequisite for employment as a nurse and to diligently prepare themselves to meet this important requirement.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming an RN at Gwinnett Institute.