I find that so many nurses become so dependent on the protocols, that they go through each shift with blinders on. Yes, protocols are a huge part of what we do every day, but the one thing that will reassure the caller and prevent multiple call backs in a shift is education.
We have a duty to educate the caller as to why we are giving the advice that we are. Most people are much more likely to follow the advice they are given if they are given an explanation as to why. And, if a nurse sounds reassuring that he or she is confident in the advice they are giving, the caller is much more likely to take them at face value. If the nurse sound like they are reading from a script or unable to give explanations, the caller is going to be unsettled and more likely to call again or ask to speak with the physician.
The best way to become a good educator? Know your protocols first. You cannot give reassuring advice if you have no idea what the protocol says. Take some time to familiarize yourself with them. Keep yourself educated and informed on the latest trends and treatments for various illnesses. Follow the CDC as they track new diseases and patterns of illness. Read the updates in periodicals and magazines. Familiarize yourself with new medications that hit the market.
One great way to keep abreast of the latest trends in telephone triage is to be a member of AAACN. Read their monthly newsletters. Most every month, there is a something for the telephone triage nurse.
To be an effective telephone triage nurse you cannot be stagnate. It is a constantly changing field, and the callers expect the nurses to be informed and provide them with the answers they need. There is also nothing wrong with saying you don't know the answer, but you will certainly do everything you can to help them find the answers. Then, make every effort to do so. They will appreciate your honesty and sincere desire to help them in their time of need.