Listening skills the key for triage career

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Some of the calls triage nurse Renee Muldoon takes last five minutes. Others go for half an hour.

The longer they are, the more likelihood they are complicated, Muldoon says.

Listening skills are imperative, she says. “You’ve got to listen to their tone and you’ve got to listen to what’s going on in the background.”

“So if they’re calling about their child and the child is crying and miserable in the background, that tells you a story already.” Muldoon, a Medibank triage nurse, offers clinical advice and support to callers.

She’s part of a telephone triage team that conducts telephone interviews to assess the severity and urgency of patients’ symptoms and she refers them to appropriate and timely care.

She works on a number of lines including the Health Advice Line, Nurse on Call and the Garrison line (which supports members of the Australian Defence Force).

She can take up to 60 calls in a day and each can be drastically different.

“It can be a bit of a roller coaster really and you will get the ones that tug on your heart strings, for sure.” Muldoon, who has 15 years’ experience in nursing, completed her nursing degree at Victoria University in 2003.

She has previously worked in general medical/surgical nursing, radiology and general practice.

The idea to work in telehealth occurred to her when she phoned Nurse on Call in the middle of the night, seeking advice about her unwell baby son.

“I needed to talk to someone about my son but then I thought, ‘Oh, what a good job. I wonder…’ So then I did a little bit of research and I applied – my son was five months old at the time.”

Muldoon has been a triage nurse for five years. In 2016, she won the Health Champion award at the Medibank Shine Awards. The organisation-wide awards, open to 3500 employees, recognise staff members who have made an exceptional contribution to the company.

Muldoon led her team through some health and wellbeing challenges to win the award.

“It’s actually your peers that nominate you and they have to write a blurb about you,” says Muldoon. “Reading all of those surprised me.”

Her next career goal for is to get further involved in supporting the learning and development of other nurses at Medibank. But she says there are various career avenues she could ultimately explore.

“We’ve got people that go up the ladder with acting roles, manager roles and so forth.

“So there’s a lot of opportunity within the business.”