And the runners up are….

We posted the winner of our first Telephone Nurse Triage Essay contest a couple days ago along with her winning essay. As we noted then, it was hard to choose a runner-up among all the other entries and we finally came to the decision that three nurses would share that honor; Susan Whitaker, RN; Rebecca Boyd, RN; and Kathryn McGinn, RN.

We’d like to wish them congratulations and thank them for their wonderful work. They received gift cards and their essays are published below.

Once again, we’d like to thank all our nurses who felt so strongly about their work that they took the time to write about it.


Why I Love Telephone Triage

By Rebecca Boyd, RN

As a brand new telephone triage nurse I took a call from a mom one night who was very concerned. The chief complaint was that the baby was twitching and less than a month old. The mom was understandably worried. During the call, we determined that the child might be having seizure activity and that mom needed to get the baby to the hospital.

Mom was very upset and crying. Dad was able to call 911 in the background, but while talking to mom, I heard a strange noise. The mother was so concerned and upset. She was crying that she was a bad mother because he would twitch when he ate and she should have known better. I was trying to calm her down and let her that was normal with feeding. I let her know she was a good mom, that’s why she called. However, the noise I heard was the baby seizing in the swing while we were talking. Mom screamed and began crying more. I was able to talk to her until EMS arrived and reassure her that she had not missed a sign or neglected a symptom and that she was a wonderful, concerned mommy.

Thankfully, EMS arrived and took care of them. We were all in tears by the end of the call. I am sure there were many more terrifying moments to come for that young family, but knowing that I was there for her in that crisis and was able to reassure her that she was a good mother and that we would take care of her was wonderful. We don’t always get to find out what happens to our callers after we hang up, but knowing we helped them through a crisis is such a blessing. It really reinforces why having a calm, knowledgeable voice on our end of the phone line is so helpful and even lifesaving. I would not trade these moments of comforting someone for anything.


What It Means To Me To Be A Triage Nurse

By Kathryn McGinn

I have to reference one of my all-time favorite calls to answer this question. I returned a call from a mother of a little boy who was very concerned that he was not gaining weight appropriately. She was very concerned that her breast milk was not “good enough” for her son. As a huge breastfeeding supporter, I was very excited to offer my advice to this mother. Her son had several medical problems and was due for a weigh in at the end of the week and, if he hadn’t gained enough weight, they were going to recommend formula. She was devastated at the thought that she could not provide for her son.

I spoke to her for quite a while about her concerns and reassured her that she was doing a great job. I told her that even though she may have to offer formula she could continue to breastfeed and he would still get the benefits from her breast milk. I advised her that she was doing everything right in providing her son’s nutrition and that some babies as just slow gainers. I also advised her to share her concerns with her son’s medical team.

She was so relieved at the end of my call and I was very pleased to be able to offer her some encouragement and advice. I still think about him all the time and wonder how both of them are doing.

Triage nursing, as with nursing in general, gives me the opportunity to step into a person’s life for a matter of minutes and offer some help. It can be just a few words that calm a family in time of crisis, verifying a patients concern and plan of action, or just answering question that weighs heavy on a heart. Sometimes, just having a calm and reassuring voice on the other end of the line when you are scared and concerned can make things a little more manageable. I don’t always have all the answers, but I can direct a patient to someone who does. Sometimes as a parent we just need to know that we are doing the right things to keep our kids healthy and safe. From my own experience with my own child, I know that sometimes it can be calming to just hear someone tell you what you already knew in your heart. It is a privilege to step into these people’s lives, and be “the calm during the storm”.

Many of those we talk to have no experience in the medical field, other than being a patient. Many are scared new parents, sent home from the hospital without a manual.  Our patients come from all walks of life, but they all need a little bit of help for whatever they are handling. Having someone to talk to at all hours of the day and night is a blessing and I am just glad that I can be there on the other end of the line when needed.


Why I Love Telephone Triage

By Susan Whitaker, RN, CLNC, BSHA

I am learning that telephonic triage nursing is a specialty where there is only one assumption that can be made. That assumption is that the person on the other end of the call is calling because they need help either for themselves, their infant or child, their parent or someone else.

The art of triage nursing to me is acute and active listening skills and asking the appropriate questions without stopping the caller‘s questions. This may be called appropriate timing.

The caller is often worried about one area, but after speaking with the nurse becomes worried about a different issue. The nurse’s judgment and knowledge, as well as training in telephone triage, will lead him/her to elicit the facts needed to direct the caller to the appropriate level of care and when that care should be sought.

Professional satisfaction in my work as a triage nurse is variable and abundant. For example, the mom who surprised the nurse with a subsequent call about another child remembered the nurses voice from the initial call and said, “You were the nurse who helped with our 4 day old son who had his first seizure….you told us to call an ambulance and we did. He was admitted to the hospital for a few days in the NICU and is doing well now”.

That is what this work means and, even if I don’t hear these beautiful comments frequently, that is enough for me. I do believe that we help people have positive outcomes that otherwise they would not have without access to a highly trained RN 24/7 365.

For this I am glad to help.