Advances in technology have led to changes in the delivery of healthcare. Today's nurses must be able to relay a wide array of medical information to patients and caregivers via phone and other electronic methods. The ability to triage without visual assessment requires solid communication skills and a keen eye.
The need for nurses in telehealth (sometimes referred to as telemedicine) has increased over the last two decades. Because of the increased demand, the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) developed and published the first guideline for telehealth standards of practice in 1997. "As the nurse's role in telehealth has increased in breadth and scope, the need for practice standards emerged ... Both AAACN and ANA [American Nurses Association] recognize the professional nurse (RN) as the appropriate provider of telehealth nursing services. The application of the nursing process when providing patient care has always pointed to a professional nurse practice."
What Does a Telehealth Nurse Do?
A nurse in telehealth can provide patient education, care and/or counseling with a telephone call. Examples of the nurse's responsibility in this role may include assessing symptoms, discussing medication changes, providing helpful tips for management of chronic conditions and ensuring follow-up appointments are scheduled.
An eVisit.com article explains: "The definition of telehealth nursing is thought of as the use of telemedicine and technology to conduct nursing and deliver care in a remote location. This field includes telenursing, telehealth and nursing telepractice, which are all interchangeable terms. Nurses who practice telehealth come from all settings and use technology like web cameras, VOIP, the Internet and telephone lines to deliver care over a long distance. Telehealth care is effective despite being remote."
Who Benefits From Telehealth Services?
Telehealth serves many different patient populations. In many busy healthcare settings, access to a physician may be difficult due to time constraints. Having a nurse available on the front line of communication can help to alleviate some of the provider's daily patient burden while satisfying a variety of frequent patient needs.
The use of telehealth allows patients faster access to a healthcare professional. Pre- and post-operative care and education is one example of how telehealth can bridge the gap between patient questions and provider availability. eVisit.com identifies circumstances in which "nursing care must be done quickly and efficiently where getting to a patient physically is difficult" as the ideal situations. After a natural disaster, telehealth nursing may be the only option available for those with minor injuries once telecommunications systems are up and running."
Telehealth suits nurses who want to provide patient care in a non-traditional way. This role does not require long hours or physically demanding shifts. Many healthcare companies are employing telehealth nurses who work from the comfort of home. Working as a nurse from home can provide flexibility in scheduling, reduced rates of burnout and even a decrease in communicable infections, such as cold and flu. Other settings may include outpatient offices, community clinics, hospitals and prisons.
Becoming a telehealth nurse requires active licensure. The role does not always require additional certification, though it is available. Nurses in this role must have strong communication skills and triage experience. This type of nursing is utilized in a large array of healthcare and community settings. Patients, nurses and providers can all benefit from this contemporary role.
Having access to a telehealth nurse can provide comfort and care to patients in need. Being able to calmly and clearly assist a patient through uncertain or emergent issues can be extremely rewarding. This stimulating role can contribute to career longevity and job satisfaction.
Learn more about A-State's online RN to BSN program.
Sources:eVisit: What Is Telehealth Nursing