Telehealth has been around far longer than most people think. In 1879, the Lancet featured an article on the use of the telephone to reduce unnecessary patient visits to a doctor’s office, according to Tracy Lustig of the Institute of Medicine and author of The Role of Telehealth in an Evolving Health Care Environment: Workshop Summary. While the basic practice of using technology to connect with patients is the same, telehealth nursing is one area that has evolved over the decades, opening doors for nurses to enhance their careers and help improve patients’ overall health care experiences. Telehealth services can support the coordination of care, enhance patient experience, and decrease overall health care costs.
Telehealth nursing has rapidly evolved into a role that is a key member of the patient care team and a meaningful career with opportunities for growth. Today, telehealth nurses work with cutting-edge therapies and support patients in a variety of rare disease states, giving nurses the opportunity to pursue an area they’re passionate about, and be a resource to patients throughout their therapeutic journey. To do this, telehealth nurses need a deep understanding of clinical specialties and therapies. In support, many companies that employ telehealth nurses offer trainings and continued learning programs so nurses can expand their knowledge, earn accreditations, and elevate their degree.
While telehealth nurses certainly rely on telephones to connect with patients and providers, different forms of technology are increasingly a part of the career. With on-the-job training, nurses can learn new digital platforms and skills to help patients through side effects and adherence barriers. New programs may be computer or mobile-based and provide telehealth nurses with differentiating knowledge and expertise as health care becomes more digital-friendly.
Telehealth nurses have the opportunity to impact patients in new and exciting ways while developing strong one-on-one relationships throughout the health care journey. When I hung up my stethoscope and transitioned over into a telehealth nurse educator role, it allowed me to combine my love for teaching with my clinical expertise. As a telehealth nurse educator you are an advocate for the patient while educating them at the same time. As an integral member of the patient’s health care team, telehealth nurses offer vital perspectives to health care providers, such as how a patient is responding to treatment or what barriers to therapy might exist. In today’s technological environment, a patient’s health care team can and should be constantly connected. Telehealth nurses are essential to the coordination of care and can provide patients with support when they need it most, influencing adherence and delivering successful outcomes.
Telehealth nurses have opportunities to advance into leadership and managerial positions. These roles require nurses to lead programs and team members, giving nurses the chance to stretch their skills and take on new management challenges. While one-to-one interactions with patients may be scaled back, nurse leaders and managers are critical to overseeing processes and initiatives that positively affect patient lives.
In the current health care landscape, being a telehealth nurse does not mean you simply answer calls and questions, it means you have the ability to provide necessary information to patients during a time of need. Additionally, you have the ability to further your career through continued education while seeking leadership positions that may not have been traditionally available. Telehealth nursing is a unique but rewarding job that allows professionals to work with a variety of rare disease states to ensure patients are receiving the proper support from their health care team. Telehealth nurses deliver on the needs of their patients, cultivate new skills and experiences, and deepen their medical knowledge to continue to improve patient care.