COVID-19 triage call center at Monument Health proved vital

Nurse Triage line played important role in covid-19 battle
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:57 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - As COVID-19 swept through the country, the healthcare industry came under scrutiny. While nurses struggled to navigate the pandemic, hospitals were facing a healthcare dilemma as the numbers of cases were climbing.

A rapid response from hospitals was critical to managing this outbreak. Mary Jennissen, lead nurse triage, at Monument Health, says during COVID, patients needed immediate level of care at the right time and those times were hard back then. “As a nurse it was a little uneasy because my position had been outpatient clients and the outpatient client world went away because of the pandemic and without a call center, the hospital would have been swamped,” Jennissen said. “It wouldv’e been far more chaotic and people would’ve been calling the clinics and the clinics would’ve been overwhelmed and the South Dakota Department of Health would not have been able to collect accurate data.”

Monument Health reorganized the emergency room and nurses learned to manage a different type of patient flow. Alexia Gillen, D.O., ambulatory medical information officer at Monument Health explains: “We pulled together a group of nurses to create the triage center, we were working on the technology side and the patient care side to pull that picture together for our healthcare system and the community.”

The call center was designed using a national protocol system, allowing nurses to offer medical recommendations over the phone.

“When a patient calls the triage line all of the nurses work through the patients medical concern with evidence based protocols that are nationwide with standard protocols to drive you to the right person and at the right place at the right time,” says Gillen.

Nurses in the Black Hills were lifesavers during COVID-- and their work is still impacting the community today.

“Nurse triage was the best thing to come out of the pandemic,” Jennissen said. “I think we do such a great community service and I’ve had so many callers grateful that they’ve had somebody talk too.”