Exploring the role of nurses in after-hours telephone services in regional areas; A scoping review

Adele Baldwin, Eileen Willis, Clare Harvey, Melanie Lang, Desley Hegney, David Heard, Brody Heritage, Jamin Claes, Denise Patterson, Venessa Curnow

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Introduction The management of patients who need chronic and complex care is a focus of attention internationally, brought about by an increase in chronic conditions, requiring significantly more care over longer periods of time. The increase in chronic conditions has placed pressure on health services, financially and physically, bringing about changes in the way care is delivered, with hospital avoidance and home-based care encouraged. In this environment, nurses play an important role in co-ordinating care across services. This review formed one part of a funded project that explored the nurse navigator role within a proposed 24-hour telephone-call service in one regional area that has a diverse population in terms of cultural identity and geographical location in relation to service access. Aim The review reports on the extant literature on the nurse’s role in the provision of afterhours telephone services for patients with chronic and complex conditions. The specific aim was to explore the effectiveness of services for patients in geographically isolated locations. Methods The methodological approach to the review followed the Preferred Reporting System for Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A thematic analysis was used to identify themes with chronic care models underpinning analysis. Results Three themes were identified; nurse-led decision making; consumer profile; and program outcomes. Each theme was divided into two sub-themes. The two sub-themes for decision making were: the experience of the staff who provided the service and the tool or protocol used. The two sub-themes for consumers profile were; the geographic/demographic identity of the consumers, and consumer satisfaction. The final theme of outcomes describes how the effectiveness of the service is measured, broken into two sub-themes: the economic/ workforce outcomes and the consumer outcomes. Discussion The provision of an after-hours telephone service, in whatever model used should align with a Chronic Care Model. In this way, after-hours telephone services provided by experienced nurses, supported by ongoing professional development and relevant protocols, form part of the ongoing improvement for chronic and complex care management as a health priority.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0237306
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Nursing roles
  • after-hours
  • telephone support
  • Tele-health
  • regional nursing
  • patient care management
  • scoping review
  • nurse-led telephone support
  • nurse-led decision making
  • Consumer satisfaction
  • Demographics


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