Triage Nurse: Salary, Definition & Job Description

Triage nurses work in emergency situations to quickly assess patients' health and sort them by the urgency of their condition. These nurses need strong communication skills and an ability to multitask.

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What is a Triage Nurse?

Triage nurses typically work in emergency rooms or related facilities, like trauma centers or urgent care clinics, where they assess patients' conditions to determine the type and urgency of medical assistance they need. This generally includes taking and recording a patient's vital signs, determining the symptoms and severity of the patient's illness or injury, and talking with the patient about his or her condition (if possible). In urgent situations, triage nurses might be tasked with beginning emergency treatment or administering medication to patients.

Communication is a key component of a triage nurse's job. In addition to talking with patients about why they're in an emergency situation, triage nurses relay patients' conditions to other medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, and provide information to patients' waiting friends and family members.

Educational Requirements Associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing
Job Skills Ability to make quick decisions, multitask and handle stress; strong written and verbal communication skills; ability to work as part of a team; interpersonal skills; compassion
Median Wage (2018)* $25.55 per hour
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 15% (for all registered nurses)

Source: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Triage nurses need a minimum of an associate's degree in nursing, though some employers prefer job candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These programs are readily available at community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities across the country. After completing a nursing program, prospective triage nurses must become registered nurses by completing their state's licensure process. This includes passing the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), as well as meeting any other state-specific requirements.

Additionally, most employers seek job candidates who have CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and PALS (Pediatric and Advanced Life Support) certification. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nurses (BCEN) also offers the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential, which can be earned by passing an exam; BCEN recommends - but does not require - that applicants have at least two years of emergency department experience.

Required Skills

Triage nurses must be able to make quick decisions in stressful situations, oftentimes working with limited information about a patient's condition. They also must be able to multitask since they might be triaging multiple patients at once. Because they work as part of an emergency department team, triage nurses need strong written and verbal communication skills and excellent interpersonal skills; these also will be useful in communicating with patients and their families. Additionally, triage nurses must display compassion when talking with patients' loved ones, particularly in dire situations.

Career Outlook and Wage

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected employment growth of 15% for registered nurses, which includes triage nurses, between 2016 and 2026. This was faster than growth for the majority of occupations. PayScale reported that triage nurses earned a median of $25.55 per hour as of March 2018.

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