Telecommuting provides an attractive option for nurses seeking flexibility and work-life balance. Many large companies hire nurses to work from home doing a variety of jobs. Here's a look at three options: triage (also called telehealth), medical transcription and case management.
Over the past three years, McKesson Health Solutions, a healthcare services and IT provider, has increased its at-home worker population from 13 to more than 500 agents. Most are RNs who provide over-the-phone triage and disease-management services. Patients can call in with health questions, while nurses make outbound calls to patients with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
To qualify as a telehealth nurse for McKesson, candidates should have at least an associate's degree in nursing, three to five years of recent acute nursing experience, and strong clinical documentation and assessment skills. They should also be self-motivated and enjoy working independently. In addition, they must have strong Internet and typing skills and a working knowledge of Windows.
"We can offer nurses the kind of flexibility they often can't find in other jobs," says Linda Casey, senior operations manager at McKesson. "We can ensure their schedule allows them time to attend their children's soccer games as well as other personal appointments."
Salaries and benefits for telehealth nurses are very competitive, and openings exist nationwide, Casey says.
IntelliCare, a healthcare contact center company, and United Healthcare offer similar work-at-home opportunities for nurses.
Another option for nurses seeking to work from home is medical transcription, an occupation the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will experience faster-than-average growth through 2014.
Transcriptionists transcribe recordings made by physicians and other healthcare professionals into medical reports, correspondence and other administrative material.
Flexibility and the opportunity to set their own hours make medical transcription a viable career choice for nurses with young children or for those seeking a less-demanding job than traditional hospital work.
Community colleges and online providers, such as Career Step and Education to Go, offer medical transcription courses. Prices may vary significantly.
"Nurses who work in the medical transcription field can either obtain assignments from medical transcription service providers such as MedQuist and Spheris or become independent contractors and market their skills to local doctors and medical groups," says Chris Dunn, president of Career Step, whose nine- to 12-month, self-paced online course has qualified many nurses to work in the field.
Because it can be challenging to build a client base starting out, Dunn says some nurses find it easier to obtain assignments through a transcription service. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity has more information about working in the field.
Compensation for medical transcriptionists varies. Some are paid by the hour or by the number of lines transcribed. Others receive an hourly base pay with incentives for extra production.
Intracorp, a Cigna division, hires nurses to work as home-based telephonic disability clinical case managers.
These nurses evaluate patients' disability claims and provide early intervention in the medical and return-to-work management processes for injured employees. Working with patients, physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists, nurses plan and evaluate the patient's care to achieve cost-effective outcomes and optimal medical improvement.
"We have over 600 telephonic case managers who work from home," says Margaret Aslakson, Intracorp's vice president of case management operations. "We are continually on the lookout for qualified nurses."
Candidates should have an RN license, a minimum of three to five years of clinical practice experience and prior disability management experience. Insurance industry knowledge is preferred, with experience in critical care, home health and rehabilitation also highly desirable. In addition to outstanding clinical and assessment skills, nurses should have strong computer, customer-service and time-management abilities.
"The case manager is an objective advocate who helps ensure that the interests of the patient, the employer and the insurer are all fairly represented," Aslakson says. "Our nurses say it gives them tremendous satisfaction to see a patient who has been involved in a catastrophic accident, for example, return to living a happy and productive life."
Salaries and benefits for Intracorp case managers are comparable to nursing compensation packages nationally.
Bunch & Associates, a national managed-care company that manages workers' comp cases, also hires home-based nurse case managers.