By Cherri Lindquist, BSN, RN, CCM, clinical nurse manager of Company Nurse LLC

Triage nurses are a vital part of the workplace injury process. Not only do they provide compassionate care to injured workers; triage nurses also provide information on navigating the workplace injury and claim process for these workers.

To fully see why triage nurses are so important, you must first understand what makes a triage nurse different from other nursing specialties, the building blocks for an excellent triage nurse, and the passion behind a truly excellent triage nurse.

How does a triage nurse differ from other nursing specialties?

Triage nurses have a unique role in that they can help injured workers from anywhere. Because they are not confined to a dedicated location, they can triage workers in any state for which they hold a nursing license. At Company Nurse, we have nurses licensed in all 50 states, so that they can help injured workers anytime, anywhere.

A unique part of nurse triage is that the triage nurse also works like a crime scene investigator. When the nurse is remotely triaging an injury, there are certain pieces of information affecting the medical complaint that the injured worker may not know to tell the nurse. It is the nurse’s job to know what to ask to get the details they need to properly triage the injury.

And while we utilize proprietary triage algorithms to triage injuries at Company Nurse, it is the combination of these guidelines with our nurses’ critical thinking that truly creates an excellent triage process.

Specifically, how does nurse triage differ from nurse case management?

Because nurse case managers also help injured workers, they are often thought to be the same as triage nurses. While both types of nurses are vital in successful workplace injury management and work in conjunction with one another, they are very different roles. So, what’s the difference?

Nurse triage happens at the moment of injury. With nurse triage specialists, you ensure your workers step off on the right foot before they even seek treatment at a medical facility.

Immediately after a workplace injury occurs, the injured worker will contact your dedicated nurse triage service to report their injury and to receive self-care advice and a referral to the appropriate medical facility, if needed. After the triage nurse refers the injured worker to a medical facility and completes the report, an alert is sent to the facility with details of the worker’s impending arrival.

At the completion of the triage nurse process, the information is also sent to your organization’s key stakeholders, meaning you can ensure your workers’ injuries are addressed and reported appropriately and immediately.

In addition, when workplace injuries can be addressed simply with self-care advice, no additional medical care is needed. This means lower claims and costs for you and less pain and time in recovery for your employees.

When injuries are more serious and require treatments at medical facilities, it’s important to be ready with nurse case management.

Nurse case management comes into play after nurse triage and after the employee has sought their initial treatment at a medical facility. The nurse case manager coordinates a myriad of factors related to assisting the employee to help get them back to work as quickly and safely as possible. And by having the initial injury and facility reports sent to them by the triage nurse, the nurse has the information they need for their case management process. A great triage nurse gets the case management team everything they need to do their job and sets them up for a smoother workplace injury process.

What are the building blocks of an excellent triage nurse?

An excellent triage nurse has a combination of the right experience and expertise. Typically, a triage nurse has background in emergency rooms, hospitals, and/or ambulatory clinics.

A triage nurse must also have experience with direct patient contact. It’s simple – if a nurse hasn’t cared for a patient directly, they will not be able to successfully interview them remotely through a contact center for proper triage.

There are a variety of traits shared by excellent triage nurses including: the ability to navigate complex situations, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, being open to changing methods and ideas, and confidence.

And while these experiences and skills are important, they mean nothing unless the nurse has compassion. At Company Nurse, having compassion for everyone is a part of our core values and a requirement for our nurses (and all other team members, for that matter).

The triage nurse’s compassion allows them to be empathetic to each injured worker’s situation. This compassion makes each worker feel comfortable as the triage nurse eases the pain of the injury and situation. Demonstrating compassion also makes the worker feel understood and valued; allowing them to recognize that their employer cares about them.

What passion drives a triage nurse?

A triage nurse has a passion for not only providing each injured worker with compassion after a workplace injury, but with a process as well.

After a workplace injury, an injured worker most likely feels scared and confused. With nurse triage available immediately after a workplace injury occurs, that confusion is eliminated.

The nurse helps to not just address the injury, but to show how to move through the process. This includes self-care advice, what to do at the clinic (if a referral is made), how to get a prescription, and whom to contact in the worker’s organization for additional questions. At Company Nurse, we offer Company Nurse Next Steps, in which the nurse can generate a text with this information for the injured worker so that the worker can easily refer to it and navigate the process with ease.

By taking excellent care of the injured worker, the triage nurse knows they are also helping the worker’s loved ones. Of course, loved ones worry about the worker’s health, but they may also need the worker to get better to financially support and care for other dependents. With nurse triage, they have confidence that the worker has a way to start getting back to health and everyday life.

The triage nurse’s passion to help to lessen the pain of workers’ comp extends to other stakeholders – including employers, TPAs, claims managers and adjusters, and risk managers. By providing extraordinary care and compassion to employees, the triage nurse reduces the likelihood of litigation. And sending detailed information to the other stakeholders allows them to navigate the workplace injury process and get claims off to a great start.

If you’re looking for skilled and compassionate nurses to help your workers and other stakeholders to navigate the workplace injury process, let us know! Contact sales@companynurse.com.