With telephone triage, the caller has no idea what the nurse is doing or if they are even listening, and it is imperative that the interview process be successful. It completely determines the outcome of the call. There are some things the nurse can do to enhance the quality of the interview and guide the call to a successful outcome.
First, explain long silences to the caller. You can state "Thank you for the information. I am just getting it all documented", or "Give me a minute to think to make sure we are not overlooking anything". Callers will appreciate knowing that are you listening and not doing something else.
The caller should receive the upmost attention, but if you have to place them on hold for any reason, explain why and thank them for holding. If you have to keep them on hold for more than 2-3 minutes, you should come back them and explain why the extended hold, and apologize.
Don't chew gum or eat while on the phone. That is self explanatory and is unprofessional.
Call the patient by name. Most people prefer to be called by their first name, but we should never make that assumption. It is professional to ask patients if you have their permission to address them in that manner.
Be real to the caller. Give each caller the personal touch. Speak to each one warmly rather than in an automated tone.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is put yourself in the caller's shoes. We as nurses, have an understanding of how the body works and about health conditions. If we are sick, we understand the symptoms and what is happening. However, equate this to someone who does not even understand what the term fracture means. Listen to the caller, be patient, and try to remember what it was like before you became a nurse.
Studies comparing providers who have been sued comparing to those that have never been sued showed that those that were never sued spent just a couple of extra minutes with the patient, showed concern, were accessible, were good listeners who invited questions, got the exam out of the way first, asked open ended questions, used humor, involved the family, explained and checked for understanding, negotiated, expressed interest, and encouraged conversation. These are all qualities that would serve telephone triage nurses well.