What is a Triage Nurse?
Triage means “sorting out.” A telephone Triage Nurse is specially trained to assess problems over the phone. Telephone triage is actually a nursing specialty area. If you talk to a triage nurse you are talking to a “specialist.” It requires a lot of special training, clinical and life experience to be a telephone triage nurse. Only the most experienced Registered Nurses perform triage in the primary care clinic at PWHC.
Why talk to a Triage Nurse?
Prevent a bad outcome because of a delay in care.
If possible, help you avoid treatment in an emergency room or a more costly walk-in clinic.
If indicated, direct you to an urgent care facility and make contact with that facility prior to your arrival.
Make sure you are well-taken care.
If you need a same day appointment, a triage nurse can:
Make sure you are scheduled with the right provider
Make sure you are scheduled at the right time
An example of this is a young man who called and was given a same day appointment for nausea and vomiting. While he was happy to have an appointment, the trouble was, his appointment was at 4:15 p.m. He had been sick for 2 days and by the time he was seen and lab work was completed, the clinic was about to close.
He likely would have been referred to the emergency room for IV fluids. Had he spoken with a triage nurse, the nurse would have instructed him to come in immediately and he could have been taken care of in the clinic.
What if I don’t want to speak with someone right now or the clinic is closed?
Just go into your patient health portal. Click on the “Messages” option on the left-hand column. Then select “New Message.” Click on the option: "General health question or appointment request for primary care" to send a message to a Primary Medical Clinic Nurse. One of our triage nurses will respond as soon as they are able to. If you send a message after hours or on the weekend, it will not be any earlier than the next business day. If it is a life-threatening emergency, we ask that you please dial 911.
What if I don’t want to wait for someone to return my call?
We accept walk-ins throughout the day while the clinic is open. Please check our Hours & Location page to verify our hours before coming by. Walk-ins will be assessed in the order of severity of symptoms. Wait times will vary depending on the season.
What if I just have a question or I am concerned about a friend or roommate?
We are always happy to answer your questions or give advice. We are here for you! Just call and ask to speak to one of the triage nurses. You don’t have to give a reason if you are uncomfortable talking with the receptionist.
Some things you can do to help us help you.
Talking to a triage nurse is a good thing! Don’t assume that you won’t get to come in if you are referred to a triage nurse. Don’t just hang up and call another clinic and don’t go to the emergency room with cold or flu symptoms. About 60 percent of the patients that the triage nurses talk to are given a same day appointment.
Be available to take a call when we call you back. Our current phone system does not allow the receptionist to directly transfer you to a nurse. Make sure we have your correct contact information. Currently our calls show up as an unknown number on caller ID. Please pick up. We play a lot of “phone tag”. We want to talk to you, not your voicemail.
If you haven’t heard from us within an hour please call back. We try to return every call within 45 minutes but sometimes our call volume is very high or we are dealing with an emergency in the clinic. If we cannot reach you, we may have the wrong number or may not be able to leave a message. If all attempts to reach you fail, we will send an e-mail to your U of A address. It really worries us if we can’t reach you.
If you have talked to a triage nurse and you do not improve or get worse, please call us back. We will get you in. We assume you are doing OK if we don’t hear back from you. Take advantage of having such great access to nurses while you are here. Let them fill in when mom can’t. When you get out in the “real world of healthcare” you sure will miss them!