A triage nurse is a specially trained registered nurse who specialize in assessing the condition of their patients and determining their need for immediate medical attention.
In fact the word triage means “to sort out”, a method that triage nurses use to organize and determine the priority for medical care based on a patients need for medical attention and the resources available at the time.
First used in the war triage nurses would observe the condition of injured soldiers and determine who was in need of immediate care, who was likely to die regardless of medical care and who suffered from less severe injuries, and would sort patients out to assist doctors with minimizing casualties while helping them provide medical aid to as many people as possible.
While there are certain ethical implications regarding the practice of triage (because of the use of a selection process used to determine a persons immediate need for medical care based on their perceived ailments) the use of triage has proven time and time again to help doctors and nurses make sure they are helping as many people as possible while also providing the best medical care possible and has become an indispensable tool in situations where there are more patients than medical professionals available to help assist everyone’s medical needs in a timely manner.
Triage nurse responsibilities
Today triage nurses may be used in large-scale medical situations such as victims who were injured during an earthquake or in situations where many individuals have been injured in a vehicular accident.
They can often be found working in hospitals or health care facilities operating as the first nurse a patient goes to when they are feeling sick and/or are suffering from an injury.
The Triage nurse will exam a patients medical records and history, take vital signs, monitor and assess the patients condition, sort out which type of ailments the patient is likely suffering from, determine the need for immediate care and figure out what type of treatment and/or health care specialist that patient may need to see in order to receive the correct medical treatment.
Triage nurses may also be used as phone operators and directors on phone calls where patients who are suffering from an ailment call the hospital or health care facility because they have (or believe they have) a need for medical care.
In these cases the triage nurse will listen to the patient and try to best determine what ailments the patient is suffering from so that they be directed to the right medical specialists and receive the best care possible in the quickest manner.
In the end the ultimate goal of a triage nurse is to assess, prioritize and route patients who are in need of medical care by following a process which allows them to determine the level of injury and/or sickness of patients, figure out which ones would benefit the most from immediate medical care and sort out the patients so that the highest level of care can be provided to the highest number of people possible.
Triage nurse salary
The amount of money a triage nurse is likely to make varies depending on a number of factors such as the state the nurse works in, the level of education the nurse has acquired, the medical role and responsibilities the nurse is in charge of and any financial agreements made between the nurse and the health care organization they work for.
According to Salary.com the average annual salary a phone triage nurse can expect to make in the United States is $61, 628 with the lower 10% of income earner making $51,362 and the upper 10% of income earners earning around $73,338 per year.
Please keep in mind that these are just estimates and some triage nurses may make significantly more money under the right circumstances such as working in a high paying state, acquiring lot’s of overtime or acquiring a higher position in the triage nursing field.
It is also important to understand that while triage nurses in some states may make a higher income their cost of living may be so high that it nullifies any financial advantage that nurse may have over a lower paying state.
Career outlook and opportunities
As a whole the field of nursing is in very high demand and with the nursing shortage increasing that demand is only expected to increase.
By the year 2020 it is estimated that as many as 800,000 nursing jobs will be available to those who either work in the nursing field or are interested in becoming nurses which means hospitals and health care facilities will likely offer more career opportunities, increased job stability, additional overtime, higher wages and better benefits in order to encourage nurses to work for them.
While the nursing shortage affects the entire nursing industry it also provides triage nurses with better opportunities as well, which is great news for anyone interested in the field of triage nursing.
How to become a triage nurse
Becoming a triage nurse requires lot’s of experience in dealing with sick and injured patients, and those who work in this field must be able to assess the patients condition and determine their need for immediate medical care.
Because triage nurses are in charge of determining their patients medical needs they must have a good understanding of the medical field and be able to properly diagnose a patients ailments.
Those who are interested in working as a triage nurse must go through a process in order to earn their certification and work in the field of triage nursing.
Below is a simple step by step guide to becoming a triage nurse.
1) Apply for nursing school
The first step towards becoming a triage nurse is to look for a college or university that offers either a 2 year ASN (associates of science in nursing) or BSN (bachelors of science in nursing) degree and apply for nursing school.
2) Take all of the requirements needed to get into the nursing program
Once you get accepted by the college or university the next step you’ll need to complete is to pass all of the prerequisites and maintain the required GPA needed to get into the nursing program and get accepted.
Your best option for finding out exactly what you need to do and how you need to perform in order to get accepted is to sit down and speak with a guidance counselor at that school.
Upon completion of the nursing program you’ll have to take the national licensing exam for registered nurse in order to earn you nursing license and begin working as a registered nurse.
3) Develop your work experience as a registered nurse
Next you’ll want to find a job and begin working at a hospital or health care facility so that you can start to develop your education, training and experience as a registered nurse.
It’s also a good idea to taking as many continuing education courses as possible and earn several certifications that are geared towards emergency care and triage nursing.
If the hospital or health care facility you work for has an emergency room or intensive care unit you may want to see if you can work or volunteer in that department in order to get a better understanding of emergency care and the processes used to assess and facilitate patients who are suffering from ailments that require immediate medical attention.
The more experience you acquire the easier it will be to get certified as a triage nurse and find a job upon completion of your certification.
4) Take and pass the emergency nursing triage program
Finally once you are comfortable with your training and have acquired a decent amount of time working as a registered nurse you’ll want to take the emergency nursing triage program and get your certification as a triage nurse.
The emergency nursing triage program is provided by the Emergency Nurse Association.
To better assist you with finding a program and meeting the requirements for the program you’ll want to sit down and speak with the human resources department at the hospital or health care facility you work for which should be able to provide you with more information on selecting and taking the correct emergency nursing triage program.
Upon completion of the program you’ll earn your nursing triage certification and can begin working as a triage nurse.