Imagine diagnosing an ill patient, monitoring vital signs, or transcribing medical reports without ever leaving your home or entering a medical facility. This scenario is now reality, as the healthcare industry continues to embrace new telecommunications technologies that allow practitioners to connect with patients and doctors from virtually anywhere.
As a result, telenursing jobs (also referred to as telehealth or telemedicine) are quickly growing and evolving. In fact, the global telehealth market is projected to reach $9.35 billion by 2021 at an annual compound growth rate of 27.5%. And, according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), half of all hospitals in the U.S. offer some form of telemedicine, while 90% of healthcare executives say they are developing or implementing a telehealth program.
In the most basic sense, telehealth nursing involves the use of telecommunications technology (video, phone, email, text messaging, and other digital platforms) to provide nursing care to remote patients, as well as services like medical transcription and case management to doctors, hospital administrators, and other nurses. Depending on the nature of work, telenurses might practice out of their homes, in a doctor’s office or clinic, in a call center, or even in a mobile unit.
Telenursing is not considered a specialty area of nursing, but new and highly focused subsets are emerging, such as teleICU, telecardiology, telepediatrics, and more. Moreover, telenursing has been shown to improve the quality of patient care, drive better health outcomes, and even reduce costs for healthcare organizations.
There are many types of telehealth nursing jobs, and they require much more than answering patient phone calls from a home office. One of the most common applications is telephone triage. This involves performing patient consultations to help determine the level of care needed and discuss treatment options. Hospitals who utilize telephone triage have been known to reduce patient flow and bottlenecks in the ER or clinics.
Another application is remote patient monitoring. This involves a practitioner connecting to medical devices used by a patient in his or her home, and monitoring vital signs and other data (heart rate, blood pressure, weight, etc.) in real time. Similarly, healthcare organizations can use telenurses for chronic illness management, allowing practitioners to remotely provide ongoing patient supervision and counsel.
Other types of telenursing involve case management, medical transcription, and various administrative roles. Even some health insurance companies hire telenurses to work in their call centers to provide patient counseling.
Telenursing jobs require a nursing diploma, RN to BSN degree, or LPN to BSN degree, according to Nursing Degree Guide. However, there is currently no special telenursing or telehealth certification in the U.S.; but, the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) strongly encourages telenurses to take the Ambulatory Care Nurse Certification Exam.
Because telenurse jobs rely on video, audio, and other means of telecommunication, telenurses should possess basic computer/internet skills. They should also understand the latest patient privacy laws and uphold today’s code of medical ethics. In addition, many telenurse job descriptions emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as practitioners will need to make quick and safe decisions, often without ever seeing the patient in person.
For this reason, clinical experience is a must, with many telenurse job descriptions requiring candidates to have anywhere between one and 10 years of experience, depending on the nature of available position. Telenurses must also be proficient in active listening, communicate clearly, have strong organizational skills, and be self-motivated.
A career in telenursing has its fair share of pros and cons. On the plus side, many positions provide much greater flexibility and convenience than traditional bedside care nursing positions, allowing employees to strike a better work-life balance. These jobs can be less physically demanding, and also provide competitive salaries and benefits.
Although many telenurses and their patients surprisingly report a more personalized, connected experience than an in-person office visit, remote work isn’t for everyone – some practitioners may simply prefer in-person, bedside care. Another con of telenursing is the heavy reliance on technology. A poor internet connection or a lack of computer skills can make any telehealth job frustrating and inefficient.
Pros and cons aside, telenursing is a booming industry with wide range of job opportunities for those with varying degrees of experience. Ready to take the next step? Search for telenursing jobs in your area on iHireNursing.