Telehealth Nursing: What Is It? And How to Become One
The pandemic hastened the adoption of health care technologies as providers scrambled to limit in-person contact, move services online and deliver accessible remote care. Although telehealth was present and available before the pandemic, the use of telehealth spiked dramatically during the worldwide health crisis.
According to research from McKinsey & Company, telehealth usage is 38% higher post-pandemic, consumers are more comfortable than ever using virtual health care platforms, and health care models are evolving long-term to enable hybrid and virtual-first interactions. Telemedicine is forecasted to become a $277 billion industry by 2025, giving telehealth nurses a positive job outlook.
The industry’s fast-moving digital transformation is redefining modern nursing. As a result, nurses and aspiring nurses are increasingly curious about what telehealth nurses do and are exploring how to be a telehealth nurse to unlock remote job opportunities. If you are interested in working in telehealth as a nursing specialty, you can start by earning the necessary credentials to practice as a registered nurse (RN) in the United States.
What Do Telehealth Nurses Do?
Telehealth uses digital information and communication technologies to deliver remote health treatment, monitoring and care. Registered nurses who use telehealth to provide virtual health care to patients are considered telehealth nurses. Telehealth nurses often help patients address health queries or monitor chronic conditions from afar.
Telehealth nurses work in various settings, including call centers, hospital units, patients’ homes, emergency departments, insurance companies, nursing agencies and public
health departments. As a result, telehealth nursing can help unburden the health care system by filtering patients through remote channels and freeing up hospitals and clinics for first-time consultations, physicals, or urgent, specialized care.
The roles and responsibilities of telehealth nurses vary based on the nurse’s specialty, practice, location and experience. However, telehealth RNs are generally responsible for the following:
- Assessing patients regarding their medical history, medications, conditions and symptoms
- Planning and implementing treatment procedures
- Evaluating and monitoring patients’ responses to treatment plans
- Determining the next steps for patient assessments
- Providing medical advice and advising patients on ways to manage their symptoms
- Partnering with other health care practitioners, including doctors and specialists to deliver appropriate care
- Educating patients, families and communities about preventative health care
- Ensuring patient records are updated and accurate
- Navigating virtual platforms, phone and video chat services with ease and efficiency
How to Meet Nursing Requirements and Move Into Telehealth Nursing Roles
Working as an RN is a rewarding profession with the power to improve health care outcomes and the quality of life for youth, adults and geriatric patients. However, working as an RN can also be challenging and involve irregular work schedules, long physically-taxing shifts, and a busy, sometimes stressful, work environment.
Telehealth nursing can help alleviate some of the common challenges of the nursing profession. According to a recent case study, “a remote care team provides the bedside nurse with another set of eyes to watch trends in the patient's status, which reduces the stress on bedside nurses when they have multiple patients to care for simultaneously.”
Telehealth nurses can also expand their reach by aiding patients in remote areas, all while skipping the commute and associated costs. Studies show that telehealth “provides access to resources and care for patients in rural areas or areas with provider shortages, improves efficiency without higher net costs, reduces patient travel and wait times, and allows for comparable or improved quality of care.” As a telehealth nurse, you can help support older adults and patients in rural, typically underserved locations.
If you’re curious about how to become a telehealth nurse in the United States, you must take five primary steps to enter general nursing roles and then apply for virtual health care roles and specialize in telehealth care.
1. Earn Your BSN
The first step to becoming an RN in the United States is to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This program can be completed in person or online and is specially designed for students who want to build the foundational skills needed to enter the nursing profession. A traditional BSN typically takes four years to complete. Alternatively, an accelerated BSN (ABSN) allows students to fast-track their studies and complete their degree in as little as 16 months.
In the BSN and ABSN curriculum, students learn core nursing competencies, including concepts and theories of nursing, health care systems and leadership, direct patient care and more. A traditional BSN requires a high school diploma or GED, whereas an ABSN requires a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline and course prerequisites (ex., general chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology and statistics).
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
After completing a nursing education program that meets the nursing regulatory board's standards of approval, you must apply, pay a fee and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. This national exam can be taken in any state and is a prerequisite to applying for a state license. Most accredited university programs help prepare students to pass the NCLEX-RN exam; for example, Elmhurst University’s MENP graduates have a 94% NCLEX-RN pass rate.
3. Apply for a State Nursing Licensure
To become a registered nurse in the United States, you must select your desired state of practice and apply for a state license. Each state’s Nursing Practice Act has its differences, including variations in the cost of license application fees and length of the application process to the number of required clinical hours served and continued education units (CEU). You can review the state Nurse Practice Act and regulations to evaluate eligibility in each state.
To move into telehealth roles you are required to obtain state licensure, and one license might not be enough to practice across multiple states. If you live in a compact state you can apply for a multistate license with The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) which will allow you to practice in other compact states.
4. Complete In-Person Nursing Experience
It is highly recommended for RNs to gain experience in the field before transitioning to digital-first health care delivery. To be successful in telehealth nursing you must have a foundation of expert clinical skills that can transfer to a virtual environment. Most telehealth employers require applicants to have a few years of bedside experience. In-person, you can log clinical experience, learn how to best interact with patients and familiarize yourself with standard nursing practices.
5. Apply for Telehealth Jobs
The final step to becoming a telehealth nurse is to seek remote, virtual job opportunities in relevant nursing roles online. A solid job application must include your past education, clinical and work experience and evidence of the necessary state licensure.
As a telehealth nurse, you can join the next generation of digital health care delivery and support high-quality care for individuals and communities across the country.
Start Your Nursing Journey at Elmhurst University
If you are considering telehealth as a nursing specialty, you can start by earning the necessary credentials. Elmhurst University prepares students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to become registered nurses through the online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) and online Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) programs.
The online Accelerated BSN and online MENP programs offer a modern curriculum with courses like “Technology in Health Care Education and Practice” that emphasize nursing practices in a technology-enabled environment. In the curriculum, students learn in-demand skills like data management, ethical and legal issues related to telehealth platforms and how technology influences advanced nursing roles.
Elmhurst University’s online accelerated nursing programs are academically strong, ethically driven, accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Elmhurst University is also highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report:
- #20 in Best Undergraduate Teaching
- #13 in Regional Universities Midwest
- #20 in Best Colleges for Veterans
- #19 in Best Value Schools
- #8 in Top Performers for Social Mobility
- #9 in Most Innovative Schools
Learn more about how you can take the next step toward a career as a telehealth nurse: