Telehealth Nursing: What It Is and How to Get Started

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Telehealth nurses use technology like telephones and smartphones to assist patients remotely. Learn more about this exciting career and what you need to do to join it.

[Featured Image]:  A female telehealth nurse, wearing a white uniform, is sitting in front of her computer, communicating with a patient.

Telehealth nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who use telecommunications technology to provide patient care. While telehealth has been around for many decades, modern technological advances have helped the field to grow and reach more patients than ever before. 

Telehealth nursing is on the rise, but is it the right profession for you?  

In this article, you’ll learn more about telehealth nursing, including the duties, salary, and job outlook you can expect as a telehealth nurse. You’ll also explore what telehealth nursing actually looks like in the real world, how to become a telehealth nurse yourself and find some recommended online courses that can help you get started on a career in telehealth nursing today.  

What is telehealth nursing? 

Telehealth nurses use telecommunication technologies, such as telephones or video conferencing platforms, to assess patients and assist them with their health conditions. While in the past telehealth nurses primarily relied on telephones to communicate with their patients, today they have a wide range of digital health technologies accessible through smartphones, tablets, and computers that ensure they can remotely provide high-quality care to those in need. 

Though their work differs somewhat from nurses providing in-person care, telehealth nurses are registered nurses (RNs) with the same training and expertise as their offline counterparts. While telehealth provides nurses with the opportunity to work remotely with a flexible schedule, it also has the potential to provide health care access to geographically remote patients, lower medical costs, and cut down on the time it takes to receive care. 

Responsibilities and duties 

RNs working with telehealth technologies strive to provide the same high-quality care to their online patients as they do for their offline ones. While their exact responsibilities vary from patient to patient, some of telehealth nurses most common duties include: 

  • Triaging with patients over the phone by using their medical histories and descriptions of their conditions. 

  • Using telehealth technologies to conduct remote patient monitoring and collect critical health data, such as their blood pressure.

  • Managing chronic ailments like diabetes and heart disease. 

  • Educating patients on health conditions and their treatment courses. 

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History and Landscape of Telehealth

Telehealth nursing salary and job outlook 

Health care is a growing field that is impacted considerably by technological advances. As digital services and telecommunications devices spread worldwide, so too does the reach of health care providers, who can now serve patients far from their physical hospitals. Here’s how telehealth nurses fair in this dynamic health care landscape. 

Salary

Telehealth nurses make a higher than average salary. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for registered nurses was $77,600 in May 2021 [1]. Although the BLS doesn’t collect data on telehealth nurses specifically, the job site Glassdoor puts the average annual salary for telehealth nurses at $108,957 as of September 2022 [2]. 

Both of these salaries are higher than the median salary for all occupations in the United States, which the BLS notes was $45,760 in May 2021 [1]. The exact pay that you can expect to earn as a telehealth nurse will likely depend on your work experience, qualifications, geographic location, and employer. 

Job Outlook 

The job outlook for telehealth nursing is positive. Although there are no official statistics about the projected number of telehealth nursing jobs in the future, related statistics suggest that the field will likely continue to grow. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for example,  the number of job openings for RNs is projected to grow by six percent between 2021 and 2031, adding approximately 203,200 jobs each year throughout the decade [3]. At the same time, telehealth is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, according to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, during the COVID-19 pandemic telehealth utilization grew 38 times its pre-pandemic levels [4]. 

These data points suggest that as nurses continue to be in demand and telehealth becomes more widely adopted, the number of telehealth nurses will expand.  

Telehealth nursing jobs: what to expect 

Telehealth nurses perform many of the same duties as RNs working with in-person patients but do so through telecommunication technologies that create unique opportunities and challenges. 

For example, while telehealth nurses can work in traditional health care settings like hospitals and clinics, many also work in medical call centers or from their own homes. The flexibility inherent in telehealth services may appeal to those health care professionals who enjoy providing patient care but who also desire a less hectic professional environment than many in-person health care facilities provide. 

At the same time, telehealth nurses must assess patient conditions without seeing them in-person. While video conferencing platforms and other digital health technologies allow telehealth nurses to monitor patients remotely, providing care through these technologies differs considerably from the approaches most nurses are taught in traditional nursing programs. 

Nurses pursuing a career in telehealth should consider the kind of work environment and health care approach that best suits their unique personality type.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

How to become a telehealth nurse 

The path to becoming a telehealth nurse resembles that taken to become an RN but with some minor, though important, differences that prepare you to provide patient care though telecommunications technologies. Here’s what your path to becoming a telehealth nurse could look like: 

1. Attend a Nursing Program. 

To become a telehealth nurse, you will first need to become a registered nurse. There are three programs that can prepare you for a career in nursing: a nursing diploma program, an associate of science in nursing program (ASN), or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) program. 

While each of these programs will provide you with the training and qualifications you need to become an RN, you should be aware that the BSN is quickly becoming the standard in the profession and that some employers might prefer applicants with it. The exact program you decide on pursuing, though, will likely depend on your own resources and professional goals. 

Read more: How Long Does it Take to Become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

2. Pass the NCLEX and get licensed.

Once you have completed your nursing program, you will qualify for the NCLEX-RN, the official exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) that you must pass to become an RN. Once you have taken and passed the exam, you will be qualified to become a licensed RN. The exact requirements for licensure will vary from state to state, so make sure to check your state’s guidance first. In some instances, telehealth nurses might need to become licensed in the state that their patients are located in addition to their own home state. 

3. Get certified. 

While there is no official telehealth nursing certification, the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) does provide an ambulatory care certification exam that includes telehealth nursing content. You might consider obtaining the certification in order to highlight your preparedness in telehealth nursing to potential employers. 

4. Gain experience. 

Many employers require applicants to telehealth nursing positions have significant experience providing bedside care. The reason for this requirement is clear: telehealth nurses must draw on their wealth of experience to assist patients they are not able to physically examine, so they must be well-trained to bridge the physical divide between them.  

As a result, you would likely benefit from gaining experience providing in-person care before entering the telehealth profession right away. 

5. Hone your skills. 

Telehealth nurses must be particularly skilled at communication, empathy, and active listening in addition to their medical knowledge. If you’re looking to start a career in telehealth nursing, then you should consider honing these critical people skills to ensure that you can be well-equipped for the job. 

Start your nursing journey 

Telehealth nurses are highly trained health care professionals capable of helping patients with a variety of ailments. As a result, the journey to becoming a telehealth nurse begins with gaining the right knowledge and skills. 

To help you prepare for your future career, you might consider taking a flexible online course through Coursera. The University of Minnesota’s Integrative Nursing Specialization teaches a patient-centered, relationship-based approach to nursing that utilizes a variety of integrative healing modalities. Johns Hopkins’ Foundations of Telehealth course, meanwhile,  introduces key components and considerations needed to design and implement a successful telemedicine program at both the practice and health system levels.

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Foundations of Telehealth

Telemedicine has proven itself to be an important part of the future of healthcare. In this course, students will be introduced to the key components and ...

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Article sources

1

US BLS. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses, Pay, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-5.” Accessed September 16, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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