Retaining Highly Skilled Telehealth Nurses in a Call Center in Puerto Rico

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Mary Terhaar, DNSc, RN
Department of Health Systems and Outcomes, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, MD
Maria Colon, MSN, RN
Triage, McKesson Health Solutions, San Juan, PR

Learning Objective 1: Identify the aspects of the practice environment that challenge the telehelath nurse

Learning Objective 2: Identify one strategy to increase telehealth nurse retention

Telehealth is the removal of time and distance barriers to delivery of health care services or related activities (ANA, 1997). Telenursing, a subset of telehealth, focuses on nursing practice using telecommunications. These nurses require a specialized skill set in that they must speak both English and Spanish, must be capable of establishing a therapeutic relationship over the phone, and must be able to gather essential data to evaluate patient needs without placing hands or eyes on the patient. These specialized nurses comprise the largest portion of telehealth employees, and yet little is known about the practices, practice environment, development or retention of these valuable employees. 

Retention is key to mission success in any healthcare organization.  This is true in the hospital and Telehealth alike (World Health Organization, 2010).  The purpose of this project was to describe and evaluate the level of satisfaction among nurses working in a call center in Puerto Rico using the Index of Work Satisfaction instrument (Stamps, 1997) and focus groups; then to employ rapid cycle performance improvement activities based on these data; and finally to evaluate the effectiveness of the Performance Improvement strategy. 

Once IRB approval was obtained, nurses were invited to participate.  Data were collected, entered, analyzed and shared with both staff and leadership.  A strategy to improve on a single measure of satisfaction was selected and implemented.  Then the IWS was repeated and data analyzed using t-test to evaluate if the strategy was effective.

All data will be collected in April and the effectiveness of the intervention will be evaluated in time for presentation at the research congress in Brisbane.