Continuing Education for Nurse Triage Professionals and Their Patients

By Charu G. Raheja, PhD, and Ravi Raheja, MD

Healthcare is constantly changing, and advances in telemedicine are a prime example of how far healthcare has evolved over the last decade. Research findings, new laws and regulations, and emerging technologies all mean that continuing education is important in the nurse triage field.

Nurse triage and call center professionals recognize the importance of education and staying current on healthcare policies and protocols. Conferences are a great way to learn and network, but financial and time constraints limit the number of people who can attend these events. Publications such as AnswerStat are a great way to get information on current trends in call centers as well as information about call center products and services. In addition, clinical protocol writers Dr. Bart Schmitt and Dr. David Thompson provide periodic clinical updates on nurse triage, which are also a great resource.

Advances in technology have made learning more accessible. In addition to print material and in-class learning, online education is becoming more prominent. Many medical call centers, healthcare facilities, hospitals, and clinics allow their employees to utilize online learning resources during downtime. Online learning resources provide flexibility in continuing education because, rather than being restricted to the confines of a classroom or attending a conference, healthcare professionals can access learning material according to their own schedules. Many of the online learning resources are affordable or free. Another convenient feature is the ability to work at your own pace or pause the course as needed.

While education is important for medical professionals, it is also beneficial for patients. In telehealth, callers are usually under stress, especially if they are calling for a loved one. The caller may be distracted and worried when speaking to a nurse on the telephone and may not remember the information provided by the nurse once the call has ended.

Call centers need to consider ways to provide care advice and instructions to ensure that patients have access to the correct follow-up information after they talk to a triage nurse. By default, many patients resort to publicly available information through a Web search. However, the information they find is unfiltered and not always from reliable sources. Patients can be told where to find the information, but that requires a certain degree of sophistication and motivation from them, in addition to a database of resources for the nurses in the call center.

This year, Schmitt and Thompson made a new valuable resource available to call centers that use their protocols: the Schmitt-Thompson After Care Instructions. There are 147 pediatric and 100 adult symptom-based care instructions to send to patients just after talking to a nurse. This resource can be faxed or emailed, and it provides patients with focused and reliable instructions based on the reason for their call. Rather than struggling to remember or write down every detail the nurse offers over the phone, the patient can refer to documented instructions provided through email.

Healthcare is a part of our rapidly evolving digital world, and continuing education is beneficial for both medical professionals and patients. It has become increasingly important to use these technological advances to our advantage, and the newest electronic education resources help make the nurse triage professional’s job more effective and efficient.

Charu G. Raheja, PhD, is the CEO and chair of TriageLogic; Ravi Raheja, MD, is the COO and medical director of TriageLogic. TriageLogic is a URAC-accredited company offering Web-based telephone triage software and nurse triage services. With almost ten years of service, TriageLogic has provided triage solutions to over 7,000 doctors. Triage logic recently started an online Triage Learning Center, which covers some of the features discussed in this article. Please visit triagelogic.com for more information.

[From the Aug/Sep 2014 issue of AnswerStat magazine]