The Role of a Telecare RN
In his role as a telecare triage nurse, Todd Anderson, RN, considers himself a jack of all trades.
“We’re counselors, clinicians, comforters, suppliers,” he says. “We manage symptom calls, equipment issues, medication refills, [and] anything health-related for the patients.”
When a patient or family member calls a VITAS program office after hours, they are routed to the Care Connection Center (CCC). A patient care coordinator takes the call and determines if there is a clinical need. If there is, the call will be routed to a telecare triage RN like Todd.
They help answer questions about medication administration, how to operate home medical equipment, and how to care for patients.
“Families aren’t healthcare providers, and this is a new realm for them,” he says. “It can be very daunting.”
Based in the San Diego office of the CCC, Todd spent 20 years as a critical care and emergency department nurse before joining VITAS as a telecare RN about three years ago.
‘It’s Like Being a Private Detective’
Being a telecare nurse takes patience, curiosity, and exceptional evaluation skills.
Todd explains that nurses are trained to perform clinical assessments using all of their senses. The approach is different for telecare RNs.
I can offer them help, empathy, and encouragement. I will find a way to help them.
“You have to be comfortable doing assessments over the phone,” Todd explains. “It’s a whole new realm of nursing. It’s kind of like being a private detective.”
Todd asks a lot of questions, often related to pain management.
“We’ll typically use an assessment tool called PQRST to determine the qualities of the pain, what has helped it, what hasn’t, is it localized?” he says. “I try to sort out what I can do as a nurse over the phone to offer them some interventions.”
It takes a unique individual to be up for this type of challenge, but it’s also very rewarding.
“Family members call because a loved one is suffering,” Todd says. “This is a new era of life, and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety on the caregiver. I always try to assure them, ‘I can help you.’”
Often, a call results in a nurse being sent to the patient in person, but in the meantime, Todd tries to figure out what he can do to help.
A Company That Cares
At the heart of VITAS are people like Todd, who work with compassion each and every day.
“Patients come to us in a completely unknown, unfamiliar season of life,” he says. “We’re being invited to walk with them through it. That’s not something I take lightly. I can offer them help, empathy, and encouragement. I will find a way to help them.”
In return, Todd feels the support from VITAS. “It’s a business of caring, and they do care for their staff,” he says.
“We all go through seasons of loss, need, pain, [and] sorrow. Nobody wants to do it alone. By being part of the family at VITAS, we can help ensure that that won’t happen. I love what I do. I love nursing. It’s really a privilege to be here and do this work.”