Thanks to recent growth in telehealth services, telehealth nursing is a rewarding option for adults seeking a second career. What exactly do telehealth nurses do, and what's the path to becoming one? Keep reading to discover the benefits of a telehealth nursing career and how to get started.
What’s the Demand for Telehealth Nursing?
COVID-19 transformed health care delivery. The Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker shows the share of outpatient visits by telehealth grew from 0% to 13% during the period before the pandemic (September 2019 to February 2020) to after it started (March to August 2020).
Though the pandemic has subsided, Americans still routinely use telehealth. In 2022, approximately 25% of patients accessed care via telehealth. That figure is five times higher than before the pandemic. Telehealth has many benefits for patients. Increased health care access, greater convenience and lower costs are a few reasons why many Americans continue to choose telehealth services post-pandemic.
To meet the demand for telehealth services, the country needs more health care professionals with telehealth skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an average of 203,200 registered nurse (RN) job openings annually from 2021 to 2031. Many of these jobs will involve telehealth nursing.
What is Telehealth Nursing?
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing defines telehealth nursing as “the practice of nursing delivered through various telecommunications technologies.” The technologies include telephone, video chat, apps, and email.
Almost every type of nurse can work as a telehealth nurse, from RNs to family nurse practitioners. Telehealth nursing has four primary applications: live videoconferencing, mobile health, asynchronous telehealth and remote patient monitoring.
Telehealth nurses use live videoconferencing to help assess, diagnose, treat and educate patients. A telehealth nurse facilitates real-time, face-to-face interaction between a patient in a traditional health care setting and a health care provider at another location.
The telehealth nurse examines the patient using connected medical devices and communicates via audio-video conferencing equipment with the provider. Consider a patient showing stroke symptoms at a rural hospital. A telehealth nurse could use live videoconferencing to quickly assess a patient with a neurologist at a distant site.
Mobile health refers to live health care visits conducted via patients’ computers and mobile devices. Patients can participate from wherever they choose. Depending on their employer, telehealth nurses facilitate mobile health visits from home, a traditional health care setting, or a triage call center.
Mobile health is appropriate for primary and urgent care services. For example, a telehealth nurse could assess a patient showing a fever, cough and chills before scheduling an in-person appointment.
Telehealth nursing employs asynchronous telehealth for non-urgent medical care. Asynchronous telehealth involves real-time interaction via email, the internet and text messaging. It also refers to information sent and responded to at a later date.
Web-based patient portals are a common mode of asynchronous telehealth. A telehealth nurse could use a patient portal to receive information about non-urgent health care concerns, such as a photo of a rash. Then they could respond through the portal to ask questions or provide treatment instructions.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring refers to using internet-connected devices to monitor conditions and their associated data. Patient monitoring occurs in one location, and a telehealth nurse reviews the data in another. This type of telehealth nursing is ideal for monitoring patients with chronic diseases or conditions requiring monitoring after hospital discharge.
Imagine a patient discharged from the hospital after heart failure. A telehealth nurse could use connected devices to monitor the patient’s vital signs and cardiac output remotely.
Why Start a Career in Telehealth Nursing?
Many nurses enter the profession to make a difference in people's lives. A career in telehealth nursing has the added benefits of high earning potential, flexibility and well-being.
A telehealth nursing career can increase earning potential for working RNs. The median annual wage is $77,600 for all RNs and $88,320 for telehealth nurses (Lightcast Labor Insights, April 2022 to April 2023). That's a difference of almost $11,000.
Telehealth nursing can provide flexible work conditions. Telehealth nurses work remotely from home, in telephone triage centers, medical offices and hospitals. These locations offer various schedules, and telehealth nurses can choose the most convenient setting.
Well-being is another reason to start a telehealth nursing career. Some nurses find the flexibility supports their mental and physical health. The opportunity to work remotely also limits exposure to contagious illnesses.
How to Become a Telehealth Nurse
A career in telehealth nursing starts by becoming an RN. You will complete nursing education, apply for professional licensure and gain in-person nursing experience. Then you can apply for telehealth nursing jobs.
Step 1: Apply to Nursing School
The first step in becoming a telehealth nurse is applying to an accredited nursing school. The admission process varies by institution and may involve the following:
- Official transcripts
- A minimum GPA requirement
- Letters of recommendation
- Writing samples
- Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) score, a standardized exam for assessing program readiness
- An interview with admissions
Nursing schools offer a variety of degree programs, which often require prerequisite courses. They may or may not be accredited. Weighing all of these factors will improve your nursing preparation and employment opportunities.
Choosing a Degree
Depending on the state, RNs must hold at least an associate’s degree. A BSN is ideal. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a BSN prepares candidates for entry-level nursing practice and advanced nursing education. Also, many employers prefer nurses with BSNs.
Applying to an accredited program is essential. Accreditation ensures a program meets specific quality standards. That's why many states and employers mandate that RNs hold a degree from an accredited program.
The accrediting agencies that approve most U.S. nursing programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the American Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). You can search for accredited nursing programs using the CCNE and ACEN directories.
You may need to complete prerequisite courses to gain admission to a program. These vary but often include:
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Developmental Psychology
- Sociology or Anthropology
- Statistical Analysis
Step 2: Earn Your BSN
After applying to nursing school, you will complete your BSN program. BSN programs are traditional or accelerated (ABSN).
Completing a traditional BSN program takes four years. An ABSN program takes 11 to 18 months.
ABSN programs are for those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. They cover the same competencies as traditional BSN programs but are faster to complete. ABSN candidates have already met most, if not all, of the general education requirements.
For example, Marymount University offers a CCNE-accredited online ABSN. It prepares students who have an existing bachelors degree in 16 months with clinical nursing skills and didactic coursework to enter the contemporary health care environment. Students complete all coursework online and participate in clinicals and one residency in Virginia.
Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is another critical part of licensure application. The NCLEX is a standardized exam that assesses whether newly graduated nurses can competently and safely practice nursing.
Step 3: Obtain Professional Licensure
With a BSN, you can apply for an RN license through the state board of nursing where you reside and where you want to work.
Aspiring telehealth nurses often apply for a multistate nursing license. Forty U.S. states and jurisdictions are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. The compact allows nurses to obtain licensure in one state and practice in other participating states. A multistate license qualifies nurses for many telehealth nursing jobs that require licensure in multiple states.
The licensure application process may include:
- An application
- A criminal background check
- Official transcripts
- Evidence of clinical hours
You’ll be legally ready to practice and gain in-person nursing experience with a passing score and an approved RN license.
Step 4: Gain In-person Nursing Experience
You’ll need in-person nursing experience before finding work as a telehealth nurse. Telehealth nurses usually need two to five years. You can gain experience in numerous work settings, from hospitals and government facilities to outpatient centers.
Step 5: Apply for Telehealth Nursing Jobs
The last step in becoming a telehealth nurse is to apply for jobs. Search for jobs using the American Nurses Association Career Center and the online job directories of state nursing associations.
Become an RN Fast with an ABSN from Marymount University
If you want to start a second career working as a telehealth nurse, the ABSN program at Marymount University is one of the fastest ways to become an RN.
In just 16 months, Marymount University’s online ABSN will empower you to meet the rising need for nurses while making a rewarding career change. You will build on your previous bachelor’s degree—gaining knowledge, experience and confidence to take the NCLEX and become an RN.
Grounded in compassion, personal growth and service to others, Marymount's ABSN will enable you to deliver safe, culturally relevant and patient-centered nursing care.
Contact one of our student advisors to discuss which pathway to becoming an RN is right for you.