What is a Virtual Nurse?

The job of a nurse requires a high level of dedication to the care and wellness of others. Nurses work long hours in order to provide this care, many times at the detriment of their own health and wellness, sometimes leading to exhaustion and burn out. Other nurses may be able to work, but find that family or other situations require a different way of providing care and earning income. These situations, and others, provide a way for nurses to explore alternative nursing careers such as consultants or as virtual nurses.

Virtual nurses are employed by a variety of companies and organizations that rely on the advice of skilled medical professionals. Using technology including computers, the Internet and video equipment, a virtual nurse can help patients, physicians, insurance companies and hospitals provide care over the phone or through virtual triage sessions online. Virtual nurses can be generalists or specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, acute care or any advanced practice specialty. Nurses with experience in rural health are also candidates to become virtual nurses, especially within underserved populations or locations where non-emergency medical care is less available than an urban area.

A virtual nurse is required to fulfill the same education requirements as a nurse working within a hospital, clinic or medical facility. This includes nursing certifications and degrees earned from a college, university or online nursing school. Most companies and organizations that hire virtual nurses look for candidates with experience “in the field” rather than new graduates with little experience. Other qualifications may include certifications in informatics, experience with telehealth devices, a professional demeanor and proven time management skills.

Working from home is far from a luxury-filled lifestyle. A virtual nurse must remain available and professional when “on the clock,” and may be required to work at different times throughout the day or week, depending on the location and type of virtual nurse position. These nurses, while able to reduce the stress related to commutes, work a more flexible schedule and have a potentially stronger work-life balance, are still held to the same standards, if not higher, than a nurse working in a hospital, physician’s office or other medical establishment.

For a nurse facing burn out, exhaustion or seeking a way to better balance family and career, virtual nurse positions may provide a solution. As the dependence on technology climbs, and more people become comfortable with medical advice, follow-up care and other health issues relayed over the phone and Internet, the demand for virtual nurses will continue to grow.