Telephone triage – particularly through the pandemic – is excellent for diagnosing patients fast and offering them the very best care. But because the symptoms and needs of every patient are different, it’s vitally important that triage nurses adapt their skills and knowledge accordingly.

Broadening your triage skills

A wide range of clinical and general skills are needed to make telephone triage as effective as it possibly can be. Right from the beginning of the call to the end, it’s important to get all the right information whilst reassuring patients at the same time, particularly if they’re emotional or distressed.

Triage staff will need to therefore make an excellent first impression. This will help patients to feel relaxed in discussing their worries, as well as build trust. Only once you have all the details you need can you make an accurate clinical diagnosis and devise a treatment plan.

It’s also really important to remember that when a patient feels ill or in pain they’re also very vulnerable. This makes friendliness and professionalism even more crucial. Patients want to feel just as listened to over the phone as they would do face to face, so make sure you give them plenty of time to talk. The best triaging means that the patient will go away feeling really listened to, not just that their ailment has been dealt with (although of course that’s the primary aim).

Silence is golden

Bear in mind that many people find talking on the phone difficult. This could be due to conditions like autism but also deafness, mental health issues, speech impediments or simply shyness. So don’t feel you must fill any silences – let them speak at their own pace and avoid filling in the gaps. Also try to use language that people will understand, minimalising jargon where possible.

Finally, don’t forget that an empathetic, warm tone will go a very long way. Smile when you’re talking too, as smiles are infectious (even over the phone!). After all, if your patient feels comfortable they’re more likely to open up and tell you what they need. This in turn will massively help with their care.

Would you like to build your confidence in telephone triage?

If so, you may well find our excellent course Telephone triage refresh & refine extremely helpful. Ideal for nurses, doctors, health visitors and other allied health professionals, this interactive study programme is aimed at the experienced telephone triage practitioner. It provides participants with a review of basic skills and looks at more challenging issues. The course is held online via Zoom over one day and is worth 7 hours of CPD.

Alternatively, there’s also our Telephone triage for HCAs course. Also worth 7 hours of CPD, it again looks at strengthening your telephone triage skills. Find out more here.

Whichever course you choose, all materials and certificates will be provided. However, spaces are limited (even though they’re held online) so get booked up now!