No Typical Day: What to Expect as a Triage Nurse in Ireland

No Typical Day: What to Expect as a Triage Nurse in Ireland

Every day is different when you’re a triage nurse! Here’s what to expect your general duties and responsibilities will be at an emergency department in Ireland.

Ireland’s experiencing a nursing crisis.

Simply, there aren’t enough of them. Indeed, according to Irish News, last year there were up to 1,500 nursing vacancies in Northern Ireland alone.

Clearly, with numbers at an all-time low, it’s an important time to encourage and inform aspiring nurses of the realities of nursing in Ireland.

Triage is a particularly intense and rewarding nursing role.

It’s also one that’s in demand, but for which the job description can be unclear. For anyone considering this as a vocation, it’ll help to know what to expect from this crucial profession.

Keep reading to find out exactly what’s involved in being a triage nurse in Ireland.

What Does a Triage Nurse Do?

What exactly is the role of a triage nurse? What are they there for?

Simply, what do they do?

One way to answer these questions is to take a look at the word ‘triage’ itself. Indeed, the word’s used primarily in a medical context nowadays. But its origins go back a long way.

‘Triage’ derives from the French word, ‘trier’. Which means to ‘separate out’, or ‘to sort’.

And it’s this notion of sorting that offers a clue to what triage nurses get up to each day. At its very core, the role of a triage nurse is to appropriately sort out the order in which patients will get medical attention.

Obviously, accident and emergency services can’t operate on a first come, first served basis.

If that happened, then patients with severe, life-threatening injuries would be forced to wait while those with minor issues received treatment first. The nature of emergency rooms dictates the need for a process of deciding the order in which people get treated.

Enter triage nurses.

Through an initial assessment, it’s the job of a triage nurse to quickly and efficiently figure out the priority patients and ongoing order of treatment.   Â

How Do They Do It?

Think of it like this:

Triage is to hospitals what a sorting office is to postal services. It’s the process of deciding where patients need to go and what needs to happen, when.

That’s no mean feat. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of pressure on the job.

After all, time is of the essence. Emergency rooms are busy, hectic, stressful places. And people’s lives are very literally on the line. Triage nurses have to navigate this pressure and make sensible, correct decisions about a patient based on a speedy initial assessment.

It comes down to the effective prioritization of need.

Whose injury is the most severe? It’s the job of a triage nurse to know whether a patient is of low, high, very high, or highest priority.

Of course, judgment calls like this require a high level of knowledge. Nurses need to have a solid understanding of a wide spectrum of conditions, ailments, injuries, and disorders. Without it, how could they do their job effectively?

Are There Any Other Duties Involved?

The simple answer’s yes.

Don’t be fooled. Though the sorting process is of primary importance, the duties of a triage nurse go far beyond mere assessment.

They’re required to perform direct medical treatment too.

That might range from cleaning and bandaging open wounds, to checking vitals, issuing medication, and taking blood. Equally, they may be required to move patients between places and do medical supply stock takes.

It’s a varied and multifaceted role, without which a hospital couldn’t effectively function.

A Note on Telephone Triage

Another form of triage nursing is done over the phone.

Despite having its own particular techniques, the role’s similar in many ways. The nurse is still there to help a patient determine the severity of their issue and decide the appropriate care for them.

But with telehealth services, it’s all done remotely. There are many benefits to this approach.

For instance, a patient that’s unable to come to the emergency department (ED) itself can still receive trained advice on what to do. Aside from receiving medical advice from their home, this also cuts down waiting times in hospitals.

It reduces the number of minor cases coming in, thereby enabling doctors to focus on severe situations.

Likewise, these services are often available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can allow those suffering at all hours of day and night to verify the best course of action without heading into the ED.

It also means you can work odd hours if you find yourself in a telephone triage nursing role!

What Are the Challenges of Triage Nursing?

Triage nursing isn’t easy.

But remember, where there’s challenge, there’s also great reward. And that’s no different here. The role of a triage nurse is essential, valuable, and ultimately lifesaving. You’ll go home at the end of each day with a sense of pride at the positive difference you make in people’s lives. Â

Nevertheless, in the interest of showcasing a typical day, here are a few of the challenges to expect from this profession.

1. Making Effective Calls Under Pressure

As we’ve already seen, triage nursing is an involved role. The sorting process designed to ensure that the sickest people are treated first isn’t easy.

It requires knowledge. It requires resilience. It necessitates clear thinking under a time constraint. And that’s just to name a few of the requisite qualities of a good nurse!

2. Staffing Constraints

It wouldn’t be unusual to work a long shift (say, 12 hours) with only a few nurses triaging incoming patients. Whereas dozens, if not hundreds, or people come in each day to receive treatment.

That means a busy schedule and a demanding workload.

3. Physically and Emotionally Draining

The stresses and demands of the job can be physically and emotionally taxing. It can be non-stop work in an emergency department and the work itself is challenging in its own right.

Reasons to Work in Triage Nursing

We’ve already seen how, despite the challenges, the work of a triage nurse is immensely rewarding. But that isn’t the only advantage.

Here are a few reasons to work in triage services in Ireland.

1. Every Day’s Different

No two days are the same in triage. That means every single one is stimulating and interesting. There’s never a dull moment.

2. Ongoing Training

There’s almost always the possibility to continue with your professional development. You learn every day and can bolster ‘on-the-job’ learning with additional relevant qualifications too.

3. Ability to Work in Different Places

One major benefit of training to be a nurse is that you’re in demand all over the world. You can take your qualification and often practice anywhere.

But not just in other countries. You can work in different work settings too. For example, you could work in army settings and disaster relief areas, where triage and nursing support are always in demand.

How to Become a Triage Nurse in Ireland

There are different ways of becoming a triage nurse in Ireland.

However, regardless of the route you take, you’ll need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). It’s illegal to practice as a nurse in Ireland if you aren’t on the NMBI register.

Completion of a Bachelor of Science in nursing is the most common route to getting registered with them. There are 44 courses in total, which are spread between 5 disciplines: Integrated Children’s & General, General Nursing, Intellectual Disability Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, and Midwifery.

Regardless of your selection and the training involved, the first step is to get your name on the Candidate Register of NMBI.

This is a preliminary register of all individuals training to one day be a fully-fledged nurse with the NMBI. You have to be on there within 30 days of starting your course.

After you’re fully registered with NMBI, to become a triage nurse you’ll usually need a number of year’s post-graduate experience too. But it depends on the specific job you apply for.

With that in mind, here’s a handy interview question guide for nurse jobs in Ireland.

And check out this NMBI document for more information on the process of becoming a nurse in Ireland.

Time to Wrap Up

There you have it: everything to know about being a triage nurse in Ireland.

As we’ve seen, this crucial role is usually carried out in hospital emergency departments.

Using expert knowledge and assessment techniques, triage nurses help to sort through patient issues, and, based on severity, ascertain who needs help first. In a busy, challenging environment, triage nurses also perform direct medical interventions.

It’s an intense role, full of ups and downs.

Ultimately though, this is a hugely rewarding career choice for any aspiring Irish nurses. Hopefully, the information here has helped to clarify anything you didn’t know already about this multifaceted vocation.

Now we’d like to hear from you! Are you interested in becoming a triage nurse? If so, why? Let us know in the comments.

And be sure to contact us with any questions on becoming a nurse in Ireland.