How to Become a Telehealth Nurse

Submitted by Jay Borenstein on Thu, 06/06/2024 - 18:54
a telehealth nurse giving a consultation over the phone

When you think of jobs that somebody can perform remotely, the role of a nurse might not jump first to your mind. But as the field of telehealth continues to expand, it may be time to reevaluate that assumption. There is indeed such a thing as a “work-from-home” nurse—in fact, there are quite a few of them. And if you want to become one, keep reading. 

Telehealth nursing refers to nursing care remotely administered through digital platforms. 

Nurses who provide telehealth care continue to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of managing patient needs—they are simply leveraging multiple technologies to do it. This allows nurses the flexibility to work remotely while also increasing patient access to health care.

Patients have adopted a much more positive attitude toward remote healthcare since the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, when demand for these services skyrocketed. According to data from McKinsey, telehealth visits now account for up to 17% of all outpatient healthcare visits. 

Major investments in remote patient monitoring technology as well as digital healthcare platforms mean that providers will be able to do even more of their work remotely in the future. Telehealth is no longer a novelty; it’s quickly become a norm. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, half of emergency nurses reported using telehealth in their work environments, while a third of emergency nurses used telehealth themselves. Telehealth is already seen as a viable alternative to administering healthcare to people in at-risk groups, such as people with dementia and people in underserved communities. 

Many telehealth nurses enjoy a flexible schedule and a healthy work/life balance. With telehealth services in high demand, there’s never been a better time to explore this career option. Let’s take a look at what telehealth nurses do and what the steps are to become one. 

 

What are the typical roles and responsibilities of a telehealth nurse? 

Telehealth nurses do much of the work that nurses do when they see a patient in person. The exact nature of their work may vary according to their experience, education level, and any additional specialty certificates they might have. 

In general, telehealth responsibilities for a registered nurse (RN) could include:

  • Assess patients based on virtual consultations
  • Use digital tools to monitor patient’s vital signs remotely 
  • Maintain up-to-date and accurate electronic health records for patients
  • Uphold ethical standards of care by adhering to patient privacy regulations
  • Provide emotional support and counseling to patients and family members 
  • Monitor treatment plans and medication adherence 
  • Support and follow up with patients through recovery after major procedures 
  • Coordinate with other members of a patient’s healthcare team, including in-person providers

 

What is it like to work as a telehealth nurse? 

Working as a telehealth nurse offers the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology to deliver comprehensive, patient-focused care—all while working remotely. Nurses have already been leaders in telehealth interventions.

Not every RN will prefer telehealth nursing, but there are plenty of benefits that make these roles attractive to candidates. Telehealth nurses enjoy a flexible work environment. The nature of their work means that they often work a standard 9-5 schedule as opposed to night shifts. They may be able to contract with private clinics and doctor’s offices, which stabilizes their hours and creates some regularity in their schedules. Some telehealth nurses even work on a per diem basis.

Telehealth nursing reduces some of the physical burdens of nursing work, limits infectious disease exposure, and eliminates the potential for violence at work. 

 

What is the outlook for telehealth nurses?

The nursing field is experiencing exciting growth—and nurses are in high demand. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nursing will grow 6% within the next ten years, which is faster than average. Job growth is expected in most healthcare settings, including telehealth. 

The American Nursing Association predicts that more nurses will be needed in home health, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, and telehealth settings. The role of telehealth is also expanding in prisons, schools, military bases, field hospitals, and hospice care. 

It is hard to project exactly how many telehealth jobs will be available in the future. Still, experts agree that the demand for telehealth will never return to pre-pandemic levels. In general, over 191,000 open positions for nurses are expected to be available in the United States annually until at least 2032. The median salary for a nurse in the US in 2022 was $86,070 

 

Steps to become a telehealth nurse 

1. Earn a nursing degree

The first step toward any nursing job is earning a degree in nursing. While some employers accept an associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor’s degree is typically preferred. 

If you already have a degree in another field, you can significantly cut down the time it takes to earn your nursing degree by leveraging that previous education and enrolling in an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. A Bachelor’s degree in Nursing will make you a competitive applicant when it is time to apply for telehealth nursing jobs. 

 

2. Apply for your nursing license 

The application process for a nursing license can vary by state. You can submit your application after you graduate with your BSN but before you take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. Additional requirements for getting your nursing license include licensure fees and a background check.

 

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN examination 

The NCLEX-RN examination is a computerized adaptive test for nursing candidates. The test has been revamped recently to include a more comprehensive assessment of your clinical judgment skills. The test is pass/fail and you will stop receiving questions once the computer’s algorithm has determined that you have a strong grasp of the knowledge required to enter nursing practice. 

Bachelor’s in Nursing programs don’t “teach to the test” —the education is far more rigorous than that. Still, BSN students have higher first-time pass rates on the NCLEX-RN, which suggests their education prepares them well for test day. 

 

4. Gain experience in the clinical setting 

Telehealth employers don’t typically look for entry-level nurses. Employers prefer that nurses have some “bedside” or first-hand clinical experience before they attempt telehealth care. Requirements can vary, but one to four years spent working with patients in person is often the minimum. 

Gaining experience in the “real world” of nursing beyond your nursing school clinical hours helps contextualize what patients go through. Once you have gained a strong understanding of how to relate to patients and support them well, you’ll be ready to start applying for telehealth positions. 

 

What to do next 

You can take the first step toward becoming a telehealth nurse today. Nurses with a BSN degree are well-positioned to apply for telehealth nursing jobs after they have some bedside experience dealing directly with patients. 

Some RNs choose to go on to earn advanced degrees, such as nurse practitioner (APRN), and go on to practice mainly telehealth. A BSN provides a foundation you can build on as you progress through your nursing career.

You can input your zip code below to see what accelerated BSN programs are available in your area. We’ll connect you with one of our advisors who can help you determine the right nursing program for you.