As with all positions in the healthcare field, the path to becoming a triage nurse starts with education. Emergency room triage nurses need to be registered nurses (RNs), which requires earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or a nursing diploma. Some entry-level telephone triage positions may be open to licensed vocational nurses/licensed practical nurses (LVN/LPNs), which requires a nursing certificate or diploma.
The next step is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, a standardized test administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. This allows a nurse to obtain a license to practice in their state as an RN. (LVN/LPNs must take the NCLEX-PN exam.)
While nurses don’t have to earn a BSN to become an RN, many hospitals prefer to hire triage nurses with a BSN, in addition to several years of RN experience and certain life support certifications. Additionally, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can help professionals gain the knowledge and skills needed to excel in this career, especially if they want to move into leadership roles.
Triage nurses may also benefit from earning optional certifications. For instance, once a nurse has logged 2,000 hours of work experience in a clinical or hospital setting, they become eligible to take the Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (AMB-BC) exam offered by the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing. This board certification signifies that they have the requisite entry-level skills to deliver ambulatory care as a triage nurse.