If you have been a triage nurse for any period of time, you can remember at least one call that you just felt like was not successful. It could be that the caller was frustrated with previous encounters with medical personnel, too anxious to really listen to your advice, or maybe you felt like you were not prepared enough. Yes, there is always at least one that sticks out in your mind.
How do you prevent that from happening again? There are some steps to follow to ensure both you and the caller are pleased with the outcome.
1. Be familiar with your facility or company's adapted protocols or algorithms. Know where and how to access the correct protocol quickly and efficiently. If you cannot do so, the caller will know you are not prepared and will have decreased confidence in your abilities and be less likely to follow any advice you give.
2. Be able to draw on your own knowledge and past experiences. There are appropriate times to interject additional education and information to assist the caller with getting to the next level of care.
3. Develop a relationship with the caller. This is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure a positive outcome. Callers are seeking medical advice, but they also want to know they are being heard. It is important to really listen to what they are saying and be empathetic, even if it means you have to stop typing for a moment to give them your undivided attention. We often get so focused on gathering information that we may not realize that callers pay attention to what they hear as well. I had a caller say to me once, "Can you please just stop typing for a minute and listen to me?" I was listening to her, but because she heard the sound of my fingers hitting the keys, she felt she did not have my undivided attention. They do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
4. Educate the caller. Don't just be the person who hands out advice. Explain why you are recommending the disposition. Explain risks of not complying. Instruct them on red flags to watch for and when to call back.
5. Finally, ensure them they are not alone. Let them know that help is just a call away, and they can call back at any time if they have further concerns or questions.
There is nothing like the feeling of success when you disconnect from the caller knowing they are appreciative of the conversation you just had, and knowing you were able to help in their time of need.