Health Line Nurses

With advances in technology have come interesting new ways for nurses to practise. Recently, in many provinces, nurses have been recruited for providing health information over the telephone. Saskatchewan's version of this new technology is HealthLine, a toll-free number accessible from anywhere in the province. Experienced registered nurses staff the telephones twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, providing varying kinds of advice to callers. Saskatchewanians can call and speak with a registered nurse about a health problem, ask general questions about their health and health care, and even ask about the closest place to rent crutches. Nurses can then suggest a possible course of action: for the caller with symptoms, they can advise on whether or not the patient should see a doctor and within what time frame they should do so. For the patient wishing to voice a concern to a specific department, the HealthLine nurses can transfer their call. If a call is believed by the nurse to be critical, they are even able to link to an ambulance service.

While nursing via telephone is very different from nursing at the bedside, those who work at HealthLine tend to enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction. Working in an environment like this nurses can use the full scope of their training because they never know what concern the next call will bring - they

HealthLine is very new in the province and has yet to undergo serious utlilization studies. However, there is a possibility that technology such as this can decrease the burden on other parts of the health care system. For example, a patient who would, at one time, have gone to a doctor for a minor ailment can now pick up the telephone and inquire as to whether they should see a physician. Not only does this allow the caller to receive medical advice from the comforts of home, but it also can decrease the number of physician visits for minor ailments that can be just as easily and safely self-treated.