3 Reasons Why Triage Nurses Need to Train with Simulated Patients


By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

Simulated patients can take many forms, yet they all serve the same purpose: to provide a safe and controlled environment for nurses to practice their skills. Nurses can make mistakes and learn from them without putting real patients at risk. Some simulated patients have been standardized patients (SPs) who have been coached so well that clinicians may not know the difference.

Now, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) has allowed this area of health care to become even more effective thanks to the realistic nature of the calls they provide, and the ability to customize them. Here are three reasons why your triage nurses would do well to train with it.

1. Simulated Training Improves Nurse Confidence and Patient Outcomes

Studies have found that nurses who train with simulated patients are more confident and competent in their skills. They’re also able to provide high-quality care to their patients, which leads to better patient outcomes.

The same is true for triage nurses who answer patient phone calls and evaluate their symptoms. By practicing how to ask the right questions, document all symptoms, and anticipate worst-case scenarios, these nurses can provide the best dispositions on the types of care that patients should seek.

By extension, this helps patients learn when it is or isn’t appropriate for them to seek out emergency care, translating to better health outcomes for them and larger revenue savings for their providers (especially when their clinics aren’t overwhelmed).

2. Simulated Training Improves Muscle Memory

The more you practice a behavior, the more it becomes second nature. Nurse triage training is a unique environment unto itself, requiring not only specific skills from nurses, but also the right mindset on how they should interact with patients prior to any physical examination. This comes down to how well nurses:

Triage nurses rely solely on their communication skills to gather information and provide appropriate care. By practicing with simulated patients, they can learn how to ask the right questions, elicit essential information, and provide appropriate care based on each patient’s specific needs.

3. Simulated Training Offers a Wide Range of Scenarios

Simulated patients can be used to train nurses on a wide variety of patient encounters they are likely to have in their careers. For example, a simulated patient may be experiencing chest pain, or they may be angry and upset.

Ideally, these training scenarios will begin with simple exercises so that nurses can become familiar with the 10-step process they should follow, and the types of questions they need to ask. Then, more complicated scenarios can be used to test their knowledge and ability to handle upset patients, those who are difficult to understand, and how to overcome other aspects like background noise that may interfere with their calls.

AI Training with Simulated Patients

Nurse triage training can likewise use artificial intelligence to simulate real-life scenarios. Here are the benefits of using AI training with simulated patients:

  • Most simulated patients in traditional triage training are seasoned triage nurses. This means that a live manager needs to spend the time and resources training another nurse. Using computer simulated training relieves managers of this responsibility and lets them focus on taking live calls.
  • Training evaluators can spend more time coaching new nurses based on their individual performance, rather than administering these exercises directly.
  • Providers can access trackable results for all nurse training performances.
  • All training is consistent and standard across nurses. 

How does a nurse training module accomplish these outcomes?

  • Trainees are given reference materials for review, including key concepts and the 10-step process for every nurse triage call.
  • Nurses start training with basic situations that prompt them with the steps they need to take and the questions they should ask. 
  • Training simulations become progressively more difficult, omitting steps and questions so that nurses must use what they’ve learned to address each simulated patient’s symptoms thoroughly and accurately.

Each situation can be taken multiple times for improved scores. Each can also be customized so that the caller’s voice and tone, attitude, gender, and surrounding environment influence their reactions and the progression of a given scenario.

After completion of an exercise, a transcript is generated that provides performance feedback. This solution is self-guiding, meaning that normal trainers and triage nurses don’t have to spend time administering it; they can simply review its results and give pointers as needed.

Nurse Triage Training

Training with simulated patients is a critical step in ensuring that nurses are well-prepared to provide high-quality care in real-world situations. By creating a safe and controlled environment for nurses to practice their clinical skills, simulated patients allow nurses to make mistakes and learn from them without putting actual patients at risk. 

Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the CTO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. If you’d like to discuss how our program can benefit your team of healthcare professionals, let’s schedule a call.

Founded in 2007, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-lead provider of high-quality telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive solutions include integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over 25 million lives nationwide.