Becoming a Telehealth Nurse

Image credit: Unsplash

Due to the global health crisis, we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in virtual medical consultations all over the country. Indeed, the rapidly improving technologies in the telecommunications sector have allowed medical professionals to remotely service patients with ease during these distressing times. The telehealth market has significantly grown, and is expected to reach $70.19 billion by 2026. Unsurprisingly, this has encouraged health professionals from different specializations to explore this alternative treatment arrangement.

Aside from doctors, nurses have also been practicing telehealth to help patients easily access medical care. Today, the nursing profession has gone beyond performing administrative duties and providing care for patients in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and physician’s offices. Various nursing careers can be found in a wide range of healthcare fields, whether it’s in public health, critical care, geriatrics, or informatics. Furthermore, many nurses today even pursue a master’s or doctoral degrees to allow them to specialize in various fields such as oncology and mental health. Given this diversity in opportunities, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reveals that graduates of such programs are more likely to land a job at the time of graduation compared to other fields — proof that nurses are indispensable.

Telehealth nursing is more than just providing counseling over the phone or acting as first responders to patient calls. Nowadays, nurses can connect with patients and monitor their conditions with the help of computers and audiovisual tools. That being said, we’ve prepared a quick guide on all you need to know to pursue telehealth nursing.

What are the duties of telehealth nurses?

As we’ve mentioned, the job responsibilities of telehealth nurses generally include taking note of the patient’s health and relaying this information to their doctor. However, this varies depending on their specialty, who they’re catering to, and where they’re employed. Their duties may include:

  • Scheduling appointments and tests
  • Referring patients to specialists
  • Assisting patients through phone or video chat services
  • Remotely monitoring a patient’s health rate, blood glucose, oxygen levels, and respiration
  • Diagnosing a patient’s condition (as a specialist)
  • Handing out medical advice to patients with minor health issues
  • Helping patients understand their situation
  • Aiding medical response teams in bringing patients to health centers and hospitals
  • Providing pre-surgical and post-surgical care

While telehealth nurses usually work remotely from their homes or in a telephone triage center, some may also work in locations such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Trauma centers
  • Outpatient facilities
  • Prisons
  • Private Organizations
  • Poison control centers
  • Physician’s offices

How much do telehealth nurses make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in 2019 is $73,000 per year. However, telehealth nurses that have at least 10 years of experience can earn as much as $24.49 per hour. And telehealth nurses can expect this number to increase in proportion to how long they’ve been practicing in the medical field.

Moreover, the earning potential also goes higher as nurses pursue additional education. Those with special degrees or have management certifications are often placed in industries where their pay is significantly higher than their peers. Additionally, annual employee performance reviews also have the potential to provide telehealth nurses a boost in their paycheck.

What are the qualifications of telehealth nursing?

Besides completing nursing school and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered nurses, telehealth nurses also need several years providing bedside care before joining the remote workforce. While there isn’t a specific certification that can prepare nurses for providing telehealth care, having the knowledge and competencies to provide care to patients in ambulatory care settings can further propel their careers. In this regard, nurses often obtain an Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (RN-BC) before applying to telehealth positions.

In order to acquire a certification in RN-BC, nurses are required to:

  • Have an active RN license in any state or territory of the United States, or have a legally recognized equivalent in another country
  • Have performed at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in ambulatory care within the last three years
  • Have practiced at least 2 years as a full-time registered nurse
  • Completed 30 hours of additional education in ambulatory care within the last three years

What is the career outlook for telehealth nurses?

As per the BLS, there were at least 3,059,800 RN in the US back in 2018. They predict that by 2028, an additional 371,500 nurses will be needed in the field to provide ample care, which is a significant growth of 12%. What’s more, as the aging population increases, the demand for competent telehealth nurses will continue to grow. Indeed, reports note that 50% of all hospitals in the U.S. offer telehealth services, so it’s expected that telehealth nurses won’t have a hard time finding a place in various healthcare organizations.

Is telehealth nursing hard?

While telehealth nursing is not that different from traditional nursing, remotely servicing a patient requires tools that have a bit of a learning curve. Some of these tools include: patient monitoring devices, web conferencing apps, store and forward technologies, and mobile health apps. With training and experience, mastering these tools can be done in a short amount of time. Additionally, these tools are often manufactured or overseen by tech companies that are ready to provide quality customer service if telehealth nurses run into technical problems.

The role of nurses continues to evolve and grow due to innovations in technology, resources, and legalities. When it comes to nurses who are tasked with providing care remotely, they must be able to develop a certain kind of receptiveness and intuition, so patients can receive only the best care — no matter where they are in the world.

Article contributed by Leanne Rose