What is Telephone Triage Nursing?

Telephone triage nursing is a specialty where a nurse evaluates the patient’s medical needs over the phone.Telephone triage is available in many settings, including telephone triage centers, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trauma and outpatient centers, poison control centers and crisis hotlines.Telehealth nurses often take care of patients throughout the lifespan but may target specific ages or populations if the office or health center specializes (i.e. pediatrics, obstetrics, and post-operative).  

Telephone triage nurses have the option to work any shift because these services are typically offered 24 hours a day and seven days a week.  Telephone triage nurses need to have impeccable communication skills as the outcomes are based on your ability to verbally discuss patient concerns and symptoms and develop a plan quickly. Telephone triage nursing is a flexible and fulfilling career choice that nurses can choose to specialize in.

A telephone triage nurse does not have the luxury of touching a patient to physically assess the patient but will get the important information purely by verbal communication.This nurse assists the client by determining the level of care that the patient requires, be it in the hospital, office visit, or a telephone consultation.The nurse will often schedule the appointment or make appropriate medical and community referrals.  Telephone triage nursing is an incredibly valuable service for patients who lack transportation, finances, or medical knowledge. 

Since telephone triage nursing office is done remotely, it is a great chose with those who have limited mobility or disabilities. Telephone triage nursing is a challenging career because you will need to use your nursing judgment over the phone. These nurses must be aware of a variety of risky symptoms, have a library of community resources, and are comfortable with understanding medical conditions and their symptoms.

Education Requirements

The first step towards becoming a telephone triage nurse is to pursue a nursing degree. A student must attend an accredited nursing program to successfully become a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse (RN).  In order to become an RN, you can attend either an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.  After obtaining the nursing degree, you can sit for either your NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN to become certified.  Finally, you will apply to the Board of Nursing in your state to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse.

There are Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses that work in telephone triage.  Most telephone triage nurses have a background in an acute care area that provided them with valuable nursing skills and clinical experience. 


Many telephone triage nurses opt to get a certification in ambulatory care nursing through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) by the American Nurses Association.  This is a competency-based exam that tests the clinical knowledge and skills in the ambulatory specialty.  This results in receiving a Registered Nurse-Board Certified designation (RN-BC) that is valid for five years.  The prior certification in telephone triage nursing was known as telephone nursing certification, but this program terminated in 2007 due to lack of popularity.

Job Description & Duties

The following are a list of basic duties that telephone triage nurses should be expected to perform.The description will vary depending on the population and facility for which you work.

  • Accept telephone calls from patients with varying levels of acuity and types of medical concerns
  • Promote clear and coherent verbal communication following an appropriate line of questioning
  • Assess clients based on the patient’s own evaluation, concerns, and responses to questions.
  • Make medical appointments and referrals to physicians, community resources, specialists, or other agencies.
  • Create a nursing care plan with appropriate follow-up steps.
  • Utilize electronic charting to access patient records remotely and to review a database of possible conditions, relatable signs and symptoms, and evidence-based treatments.
  • Determine the necessary follow-up for medical diagnoses and symptoms over the phone.
  • Provide clear patient information, thorough patient education, and recommendations for the next steps to take.
  • Evaluate the significance of the patient’s concern over the form, determine if emergency care is needed, if a medical appointment should be made, or if the concern should be reported to the appropriate physician.

Job Outlook and Salary

The median salary for a telephone triage nurse is $70,302, but the range is from $64,149 to $79,505 per year. Nursing salary can vary significantly depending on experience and geographical location. 

The career outlook for telephone triage nursing is excellent because technology in healthcare is increasing exponentially and telehealth is a rapidly expanding field. Health insurance companies and other agencies attempt to decrease costly and unnecessary emergency room visits and help patients with emergency health situations to receive expedient care utilize telephone triage nurses.


Ambulatory Care Nursing Credential


Can a Practical Nurse Find Employment as a Telephonic Nurse?