June 5, 2020

Remote Jobs For Nurses Spike as Telehealth Becomes More Normal

Woman in green reaching for phone

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the US right as I scheduled several doctors' appointments for my husband and kids. But within the week, they were all canceled or postponed indefinitely unless they could be carried out by phone or video.   

I panicked for a minute - and then rescheduled them via Skype, which was organized by telehealth nurses via email. A week later, our family had those doctor's appointments while sitting at our kitchen table.  

Social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 crisis have dramatically changed how the US healthcare system does business. Americans across the country are embracing healthcare via technology. This pandemic has shown us how easily and quickly the nursing profession can evolve the way we practice medicine when our backs are against the wall.  

Historically, telehealth has been undervalued and underutilized. But if the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that healthcare professionals, especially nurses, must be prepared to care for patients remotely, without sacrificing the level of care. Some healthcare professionals have even found a silver lining with telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Here are 6 examples of telehealth jobs that nurses can work remotely, or even, from home. 

With analysts predicting that coronavirus related visits could reach 900 million in 2020, even more opportunities for telehealth nurses await. For nurses who want an alternative to bedside nursing or want to help patients remotely, this may be a new career path to consider. 

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What is Telehealth Nursing?

Telenursing is the use of "technology to deliver nursing care and conduct nursing practice"  through computers and mobile devices, to manage health care remotely. 

According to the American Telehealth Association (ATA), the goal of telehealth is "ensuring that everyone has access to safe, effective, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people."

Healthcare providers can give patient care through telehealth through:

  • Mobile apps
  • Online patient portals 
  • Video conferencing for doctors appointments
  • Ordering testing supplies and medications online
  • Emails to remind patients of upcoming appointments
  • Medical advice lines

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) supported telehealth even before the COVID-19 outbreak, especially in rural communities. Now they also recommend that healthcare providers leverage "existing telehealth tools to direct people to the right level of healthcare for their medical needs" throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

Benefits of telehealth during the pandemic:

  • Increased consumer access
  • The enhanced reach of healthcare services
  • Cost savings for medical providers
  • 24/7 coverage
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Reduced cost for patients

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COVID-19 Has Forced Telehealth Adoption

As more patients with mild or moderate health issues are being instructed to stay at home, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced telehealth into the spotlight. Even Americans with COVID-19 symptoms are being urged to use telehealth services to lighten the burden on crowded emergency rooms and risk unintentionally spreading the virus further. 

In addition, there is an increased need for virtual mental health services for people who are isolated at home. According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, almost everyone will experience psychiatric distress at some point during this epidemic and that "severe mental health and substance use disorders are especially in need of support."  

The COVID-19 crisis has even forced policy charge:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has waived penalties for HIPAA violations against providers serving patients through technologies such as Skype, Zoom, or Facetime during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Medicare has expanded its telehealth policies, and many states are expanding their Medicaid.

Telehealth is now allowing many patients to keep their medical appointments while isolating at home and abiding by social distancing measures.

Functions of Telehealth Nurses

Tasks vary depending on the type of telehealth nursing. But the most common telehealth positions for nurses include advice nurse, triage nurse, and medical office nurse. 

Functions include, but are not limited to, electronic prescription renewal, transferring patients to the appropriate level of care, providing advice through a clinical algorithm, taking after-hours calls, returning physician emails, and performing nurse follow-up to patient activities.

It is imperative to be able to identify and recognize life-threatening emergent patient situations as well as urgent and acute symptoms.   

Telehealth uses technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to manage patient care remotely through:

  • Mobile apps
  • Phone calls
  • Online patient portals 
  • Video conferencing
  • Follow-up emails to remind patients of upcoming appointments
  • Medical advice lines

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How to Become a Telehealth Nurse

The telehealth nursing field is expanding now more than ever due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the benefits include the ability to work from home, better work-life flexibility, less burnout, less commuting, and more time with family.

Barbara, a telehealth NP from Georgia, stated: "I have freedom to work when I want and bring in the income I need—I'm no longer burned out."

There is no certification for telehealth nursing at this time. However, nurses would still practice within the scope of practice as defined by the Board of Registered Nursing and in compliance with state laws.

Health systems and recruiters across the country are actively hiring telehealth nurses. You must have a few years of direct patient care on your resume. If you are seeking a career change within the nursing field, but don't want to leave the nursing field altogether, telehealth nursing may be an excellent option for you to continue giving patient care.  

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