Triage nurse starts at clinic in Paynesville

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 5/19/99.

Triage nurse The battle was against time, and the nurses at the Paynesville Area Medical Clinic were losing.

In addition to assisting their doctor, each nurse had to answer phone calls from patients, return phone messages, and clear renewable prescriptions. "It was very difficult for them to get a lunch break or to get home on time because they had so many messages," explained Rosemary Devlin, clinic manager.

"You're talking (about) an enormous number of calls coming in each day," added Devlin.

The solution was to hire Nancy Nistler to be a triage nurse, starting on March 1. Nistler is a Licensed Professional Nurse (LPN). A native of Richmond who now resides in Eden Valley, Nistler had been working as a triage nurse in St. Cloud.

Her main responsibility is to answer all the phone calls for the nursing staff. Whether a patient calls for follow-up advice, for general information, or to inquire if their symptoms require a visit to the doctor, Nistler fields the call. She ascertains the problem on the phone, can find the patient's chart, if needed, and calls back.

"The purpose of it was to lighten the load of the nurses so they could do more for the doctors," said Nistler.

That has happened. "We've been looking for her for a long time," said Wendy Kraemer, the nurse for Dr. Julie Youngs.

Devlin thought the triage nurse was so important that she gave her office to Nistler. Now Devlin shares an office with Dr. Youngs.

Kraemer said it was important for patients to know that Nistler is a trained nurse.

"And when she doesn't have the information, she always goes and finds it," added Carol Kinzel, nurse for Gene Beavers, P.A. Nistler may consult with the patient's medical chart and with the nurses and the doctors.

Devlin said she was concerned when Nistler started about the response of patients, who were used to talking to their own doctor's nurse. Patients were pleased by the quicker responses provided by Nistler and that the clinic had a nurse dedicated to them.

In addition to answering phone calls, Nistler has other duties. She does education and preparation for patients who will be undergoing procedures like x-rays, scopes, etc. When a patient has a standing order for a presciption, they can call her and she can check against the doctor's order in their patient's chart and call the prescription in to be filled.

Another large task is routine checks and shots. When patients do not require a doctor's visit, she can give allergy or vaccination injections or check their blood pressure. Her high was 16 shots in a day, and for April she gave 193 shots.

In the past, the clinic actually had an extra nurse for a couple days each week. This float nurse also gave shots, but Nistler, who works full time, also takes phone calls.

Her busiest day of the week is Monday, when people who have gotten sick over the weekend call with inquiries. "She was sick on Monday, and we could tell," said Kraemer.

Wednesdays are also busy for Nistler and the entire clinic because all the doctors are in Paynesville.

Devlin said the clinic was fortunate that someone with experience at being a triage nurse responded to the new position. Rather than training someone, Nistler hit the ground running. "Life changed immediately," Devlin said.

"It's very nice not to have a stressed out nursing staff," said Devlin.

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