Pros and Cons of Being a Telehealth Nurse

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Telehealth is a growing and exciting field of healthcare. This growing field has opened up the doors to many possibilities and has opened new branches to nurses as an exciting and in-demand career choice. Telehealth nurses work remotely with patients across long distances in order to provide them with care. I know this sounds like a great job, but do you know what are the pros and cons of being a telehealth nurse? Do not panic if you do not. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of being a telehealth nurse so that you can figure out if this is a good career path for you.

What is a Telehealth Nurse?

A telehealth nurse is a nurse that provides care for patients from a different geographical area. Telehealth nurses typically provide services using telecommunication technologies such as video, email, and phone. Telehealth nursing aims to deliver quality, consistent patient care when someone cannot travel to complete their healthcare.

Telehealth nurses work with patients that fall under different categories, such as rural health or homebound individuals who are in need of professional medical attention but are unable to leave their home or receive it from a local provider. Many times, these individuals require medical treatment that is only available with a specialist. There are also patients with chronic illnesses such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, COPD, and others who need the care of nurses who can manage their condition at home. You will find telehealth nurses working with insurance companies, triage centers, doctor's offices, and hospitals. A telehealth nurse will also work with multiple specialties such as family practice, emergency medicine, cardiology, OB/GYN, and many more.

Top Cons of Being a Telehealth Nurse

(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a Telehealth Nurse.)

1. You will need to have a good amount of experience under your belt to succeed.

If you feel that you may want to pursue a career as a telehealth nurse, you better consider that you will need a good amount of nursing experience to excel in this field. If you are just breaking into the field, this job may not be for you quite yet. You should have at least five years of nursing experience before looking into telehealth nursing. This way, you will know what to look out for and provide top-notch care immediately when a patient requires it.

2. You are making clinical judgment decisions based on a patient’s description.

One of the top disadvantages of being a telehealth nurse is that you are basing your care upon never touching and assessing the patient. You are essentially making judgment calls based on what the patient is telling you. You are not able to physically check their vitals, the appearance of their skin, or assess any further area. The lack of physical contact is tough and can make the job of a telehealth nurse a difficult one.

3. You will need to be technologically savvy.

Being a telehealth nurse will require that you are technologically savvy. You will spend most of your time working with computers, phones, and faxes. You will also have to complete electronic charting in order to keep track of your patients' prescriptions and medical history. While analyzing the pros and cons of being a telehealth nurse you will need to consider if all the technology use will be worth your frustration. If you are very comfortable using all of these technological tools then hey, go for it, but if you are somebody who cannot even figure out how to turn on a computer or use a smartphone, well, this is not the field for you.

4. You will need to have technology equipment available to you.

If you plan on working in the field of telehealth, then you better be prepared to purchase the technology equipment you will need for this career. This technology equipment can range from a simple fax machine to a complex telehealth platform. In some cases, the organization or facility you work for will provide all of this technology equipment for you. Still, sometimes you will need to supply it. You will need a computer, a phone, a fax machine, and high-speed internet at minimum. Let’s not forget to add a printer and scanner into that list. All these tools that you need for the job can really cost a pretty penny and is one of the cons of being a telehealth nurse.

5. You will have a high degree of responsibility.

As a telehealth nurse, you will have a large amount of responsibility. You will be responsible for several factors to ensure that the patient is receiving the best care for their condition. You will be liable to assess the patient remotely and decide if the patient needs further advanced care in certain circumstances. This is a bit nerve-wracking since you actually never touch the patient. For your sake, I hope you make a suitable clinical judgment call.

6. Some of the hours that you will work will be inconvenient.

Telehealth nurses may find that they may have to work some pretty inconvenient hours. So, if you thought that the telehealth nurse only worked something like 8 to 5, think again. You may find that you will have to work the evening and overnight hours. You may also have to work much longer hours than that, and by much longer, I mean at least double the amount.

7. You may still have to work weekends and holidays.

As a telehealth nurse, you may find that you will have to work weekends and even holidays as well as the weekdays. So, even though you are home, it still means that your weekends and holidays will be monopolized by work. This will impact the amount of time you spend with family and friends. If this is something that you are not willing to do, then maybe being a telehealth nurse is not for you.

8. You may need to meet a quota.

As a telehealth nurse, you may need to meet a quota of patients that you work with each day. Once this is achieved, then the quota may be increased. Think of it as being rewarded with more work for doing a good job. Suppose you are consistently not meeting your quotas. In that case, it can reflect poorly on your performance review. It may ultimately affect promotions or even your job status.

9. You may need to be licensed in multiple states to practice.

As a telehealth nurse, you may be working with patients all over the country. This may require that you hold a nursing license for the state that the patient resides in. This can often be a challenge for nurses that are looking to work in telehealth. Obtaining multiple licenses can take time and money. You also have to consider that you will have to maintain these various state nursing licenses as well. This could end up being a full-time job in itself and is definitely one of the cons of being a telehealth nurse.

10. You may have an increased workload.

One of the biggest disadvantages of being a telehealth nurse is you may find that you will have an increased workload. Some people may think that telehealth nurses should work less than other nurses, but this is not the case. Telehealth can be more work than traditional face-to-face nursing. There are many reasons for this. You must keep records of all communication with the patient and other medical professionals. Keeping records is an essential part of the healthcare industry to stay up to date with changes and developments within your chosen field.

Top Pros of Being a Telehealth Nurse

(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a Telehealth Nurse.)

1. You can work from home.

One of the biggest advantages of being a telehealth nurse is that you can work from the comfort of your own home. Not only do you not have to get out of your pajamas, but you can also work and get your chores in the house done. Working in this environment has many benefits; you can stay home with your children or spend time with your spouse. You can put your kids to bed. You can even have a flexible work schedule that allows you to pick up your child after school or take them to an extracurricular activity.

2. You can work from anywhere.

Another benefit of working as a telehealth nurse is that you can essentially work from anywhere. If you have a laptop, internet connection, you could handpick the setting that you will work in. If you want to work from sitting by the pool or on the beach, well, that's possible. If you're going to work on a cruise ship while traveling, go for it!

3. You can have more flexibility.

Telehealth nursing is a great job, especially if you are looking for flexibility in your schedule. The hours and the schedules will vary depending on the needs of the patient. For example, if you have kids and there is no one to take care of your kids, you can work during their daycare hours and spend time with them later at home before they sleep. Also, you can choose to work in the evening hours when everyone is home from school or from work.

4. You will have many jobs available to you.

Telehealth nursing has become extremely popular within the past couple of years. There are many jobs that are available out there. The jobs that are available range from acute care to critical care. There are many different agencies, companies, and facilities that hire telehealth nurses. Telehealth nurses not only benefit the patient but it is also a cost-effective way to provide care. This is a field of nursing that will not be going anywhere. It is a field that will be staying strong throughout the years.

5. You can decrease your risk of infection.

One of the top pros of being a telehealth nurse is having a decreased risk of infection. As opposed to seeing patients face-to-face in their home, office, or hospital, as a telehealth nurse, you will be working remotely and not exposed to contagious people. This means you will not be at risk for catching an infectious disease such as flu, COVID-19, measles, or the common cold. This means you will be able to protect yourself and your family from illness.

6. You will not need to factor in commute time.

We have all seen them in the news, the dreaded "BREAKING NEWS" that includes a warning to commuters to avoid using highways or surface streets. Whenever I hear one of these announcements, it is hard for me not to chuckle. Although I feel empathy for those stuck in traffic because of an accident, snowstorm, or other weather-related issues, being a telehealth nurse, I think about all the wasted time and frustration sitting in traffic and commuting causes.

7. You will reduce your travel cost.

Commuting back and forth to work for hours at a time is not anyone's idea of an ideal job. Telehealth nurses do not have this issue. The cost of your commute can really add up over time. As a commuter, you will have to factor in the price of gas, wear and tear on your car, and the cost of parking. As a telehealth nurse, you will not have to worry about any of these issues. You do not have a commute at all!

8. You can manage your home life around working.

One of the biggest challenges for nurses is finding the right balance between work and home life. One of the pros of being a telehealth nurse is that you can manage your home life around working. You will be able to get the cooking and cleaning done and never really feel like you are drowning in your responsibilities at home because you will be able to complete both. You will get to enjoy moments with your family at home while also helping patients in the hospital.

9. You may receive pretty good benefits

One of the significant advantages of being a telehealth nurse is that you will receive some pretty good benefits for yourself and your family. Some of these benefits include health insurance for you and your family, retirement benefits, and paid vacation. In addition to these benefits, you will also receive a very competitive salary with other registered nurses in the job market.

10. You could work on a commission base

So, if you do not want to work full-time as a telehealth nurse, one of the options that would be available to you is to work on a commission-like basis. Working on a commission basis is one of the pros and cons of being a telehealth nurse you will have to consider. You would not receive a salary. Instead, you would be paid a set fee per patient contact. This is great for you if you only want to work when you have some downtime. It also gives you the flexibility to work when it best suits you.

My Final Thoughts

So, what are the pros and cons of being a telehealth nurse? In this article, we’ve talked about the top 10 pros and cons of being a telehealth nurse. After reading this article, you should be able to see that there are many benefits and drawbacks of being a telehealth nurse. It is difficult to say if working as a telehealth nurse would be the right choice for you with that in mind. It all depends on what your goals are and how much time you have available to dedicate yourself to learning new skills required by this type of nursing position. I hope these 10 pros and cons will help determine whether or not becoming a telehealth nurse might be an option worth exploring further!

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.