When a patient calls the office asking for help from a nurse, that nurse should get back to the patient as soon as possible. Usually, these kinds of office hotlines result in return calls within 24 to 48 hours, which is reasonable for non-emergencies. The recording may also tell patients to call 911 or go to the emergency room if their condition is an emergency.
Unfortunately, if a patient calls with symptoms that need attention and their call is ignored or not returned, then the nurse responsible for handling that call could end up facing repercussions.
For instance, if a patient calls for medical results three days after they should have come back to the office and gets no return call, they may assume everything is fine. If that patient then worsens and passes away or ends up dealing with an illness as a result of not getting those results on time, then the nurse or the medical team could have their licenses put at risk.
How can nurses make sure not to miss patient calls?
One of the best things to do is to make sure that all calls are returned within 24 to 48 hours (or during whatever timeframe your office has designated as appropriate). When listening to messages, the patient’s name and information should be written down, and the call should be documented. The call should be immediately returned after hearing the recording. If it cannot be returned immediately, a reminder should be set to return it as soon as test results come in or an answer is found for the patient’s question.
Sometimes, patients will call with emergencies that they don’t realize are serious. If a nurse does come across a seemingly serious call, an immediate callback should be performed and notated. If the patient can’t be reached, the nurse should follow the instructions in the patient’s file, such as leaving a voicemail or reaching out to an emergency contact.
These steps will help avoid errors in patient communication, which could lead to claims of medical negligence. Good communication may help you significantly reduce the likelihood of threats to your nursing license.