Paediatric telephone triage is a critical component of healthcare delivery, particularly in primary care settings. It involves structured interviews conducted by healthcare professionals, usually nurses, to determine the urgency of a child’s health condition and whether immediate medical attention is required.

The importance of paediatric telephone triage is multifold. Firstly, it helps in managing healthcare resources efficiently by reducing unnecessary emergency department visits. This is particularly important in today’s healthcare landscape, where resources are often stretched thin and emergency departments are frequently overcrowded. By effectively triaging patients over the phone, healthcare professionals can ensure that only those who truly need immediate care are directed to the emergency department, thereby freeing up resources for those in most need.

Secondly, paediatric telephone triage provides parents with immediate access to healthcare advice, which is particularly beneficial when their child is unwell. This not only alleviates parental anxiety but also ensures timely medical intervention when necessary. Parents often feel helpless and anxious when their child is sick, and having immediate access to a healthcare professional can provide much-needed reassurance and guidance.

Moreover, paediatricians often offer telephone care more frequently than other specialists due to the higher incidence of illness among children and the concerns of parents about making mistakes in caring for their sick child. Therefore, effective telephone triage is crucial in paediatric care. It allows paediatricians to provide timely and appropriate care to their patients, even when they are not physically present in the clinic.

Now, let’s delve into the skills and competencies required for effective paediatric telephone triage.
1. Taking a Complete and Appropriate Patient History Over the Phone: This is the first step in telephone triage. The healthcare professional must be able to extract all essential clinical information from the family member over the phone. This requires excellent communication skills, as well as the ability to ask the right questions to elicit the necessary information.

  1. Effective Triage Based on Patient History: After taking the history, the healthcare professional must be able to triage the patient’s clinical needs based on common presentations and red flags in the history. This requires a deep understanding of paediatric illnesses and conditions, as well as the ability to make quick and accurate decisions based on the information provided.
  2. Confidence in Autonomous Decision-Making: Telephone triage often requires making decisions without direct supervision. Therefore, confidence in autonomous decision-making is crucial. This requires not only clinical knowledge and experience, but also the ability to stay calm under pressure and make decisions in a timely manner.
  3. Knowledge of Paediatric-Specific Protocols: Paediatric telephone triage requires the use of appropriate, nationally recognized, paediatric-specific protocols. These protocols guide the triage process and ensure consistency in decision-making. Therefore, healthcare professionals involved in telephone triage must be familiar with these protocols and able to apply them effectively.
  4. Ability to Ask for Help When Needed: Despite the autonomous nature of telephone triage, it’s important for triage specialists to know when to ask for help, especially for more complex questions. This requires humility and the ability to recognize one’s own limitations, as well as the willingness to seek assistance when necessary.
  5. Training and Competency Assessment: Healthcare professionals new to telephone triage should undergo training and competency assessment to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills. This ensures that they are prepared to handle the unique challenges of telephone triage and can provide the highest level of care to their patients.

In conclusion, paediatric telephone triage is a vital component of healthcare delivery, ensuring efficient use of resources and timely care for children. The skills and competencies required for effective telephone triage are diverse, ranging from clinical knowledge to communication and decision-making skills. As healthcare continues to evolve, the role of telephone triage will undoubtedly continue to grow in importance. It is therefore essential that healthcare professionals involved in telephone triage are adequately trained and equipped with the necessary skills and competencies to provide the best possible care to their patients.

Are you a healthcare practitioner navigating the complexities of paediatric telephone triage? Look no further! Our latest article, A Brief Guide to Structuring a Paediatric Telephone Triage Call,” provides essential insights and practical tips for conducting safe and effective phone assessments.


  1. Hertz, A.R., (2022). Pediatric Nurse Telephone Triage: A Companion To Pediatric Telephone Protocols. American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, IL.  
  2. Schmitt, B. D. (2018). Telephone Triage for Pediatrics. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.