Remote Nurses Hired To Assist Non-Urgent 911 Calls in WA

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A new initiative in Snohomish County, Washington is allowing nurses to help assess and direct 911 emergency calls without sending an ambulance. The ‘Nurse Navigation’ program, launched this week, aims to reserve emergency resources for the most critical cases while still providing callers with medical guidance.

Snohomish County area hospitals have been suffering with unsafe nurse staffing and overcrowding for years. A patient passed away in the ER at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA while waiting to receive care; prompting the City Council to City Council to pen a letter of disappointment to the facility. 

According to Snohomish County 911, emergency dispatchers received nearly 111,500 fire and medical calls last year. Traditionally, the only option for dispatchers on medical calls was to send an ambulance. The high volume of calls put a strain on the county’s ambulances and emergency room resources.

Under the new Nurse Navigation program, dispatchers can now redirect non-life-threatening medical calls to a team of registered nurses. The nurses are able to assess the caller’s condition over the phone and provide health advice or referrals to urgent care as needed. Only calls that the nurses determine require emergency care will have an ambulance dispatched.

According to the website, The Nurse Navigators are licensed and have professional experience in emergency nursing. They are also specially trained in the practice of telephone triage.

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The program is a partnership between Snohomish County 911, Global Medical Response ambulance services, and the Snohomish County Fire Chiefs Association. Global Medical Response provided the registered nurses and technology to operate the phone assessment and redirection system. The Fire Chiefs Association helped develop policies and procedures for the program.

By reserving ambulances and emergency room resources for the most critical cases, Nurse Navigation aims to reduce wait times for high-priority emergency calls. The program could also help reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency room, lowering healthcare costs for both patients and the county healthcare system. Officials hope the program will become a model for other emergency response centers nationwide.

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