The Life-Saving Importance of Nurse Triage Lines

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How Nurse Triage Lines Can Increase Patient Satisfaction

by Karen Brown, RN




How Nurse Triage Saved Nancy’s Life

On a Saturday morning, “Nancy” (not her real name) woke up feeling very “run-down” and just generally not feeling well. She had been suffering for about 2 weeks with a severe cough that wouldn’t go away, but just thought it was a bad cold. She considered going to a walk-in clinic, but continued to second guess herself—telling herself that she wasn’t “that” sick. Fortunately, however, Nancy finally decided to call her physician’s nurse triage line, AccessNurse.

After patiently and thoughtfully listening to Nancy’s symptoms and comparing them to evidence-based guidelines, the nurse told Nancy that based on her symptoms, she should see a doctor as soon as possible and not wait until the next business day. Nancy thought, “It’s Saturday night….how can I see a doctor tonight?”


Without Nurse Triage She Would Have Waited Too Long

She continued to think that this could surely wait until Monday, but as the nurse’s words kept playing in her head, Nancy began to take them more seriously. She contacted the near-by walk-in clinic suggested by the nurse and made an immediate appointment for that night. While driving to the clinic, Nancy questioned whether she might be too sick to drive, but she continued on.

When Nancy arrived at the clinic, the doctor examined her immediately, expressing concern that her blood pressure was low, her pulse was high. Very concerned about Nancy’s status, the doctor called an ambulance to transport her across the street to the hospital ED. After examining Nancy, the ED physician diagnosed her with sepsis, placed her on a sepsis treatment regimen and closely monitored her in the ED. Later that evening Nancy was admitted to the hospital, and when discharged 2 days later, she was feeling much better and well on the road to recovery.

Grateful for the care advice she received from the triage nurse, Nancy wrote AccessNurse to tell us of her experience—“I suspect that if I hadn’t called the triage line, I might well be dead—a more than slightly unsettling feeling! I DID call, though, and I thank all of you…you guys may have saved my life.”

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