What is an Intake Nurse?

As you contemplate the options in your nursing career, you may be curious to know what an intake nurse is and what the job entails. Intake nursing is not exactly a specialized branch of nursing, but more of a general name for an important role that nurses of varying backgrounds play in a variety of health care settings. Sometimes intake nurses are called intake coordinators or admissions nurses. Their job is to process new patients in a healthcare facility and direct them to where they need to go for the specific kind of care they need.

Where Intake Nurses Work

Nurses who work as intake nurses are usually assigned to the admissions department of the healthcare facility for which they work. If an intake nurse works in a hospital, it may be their job to get the patient’s medical history, take their vitals, and decide where the patient needs to be directed for further care. Sometimes a nurse may work as an intake coordinator within a specific admission department of a hospital. Intake nurses in emergency departments are sometimes called triage nurses. Other intake nurses work in programs such as home health care. Obviously, where you work will shape what you do. It may also effect what kind and how much education you need in order to prepare for the job.

The Role of the Intake Nurse

Often an intake nurse is the first person a patient sees or talks to, which means intake nurses can have a great effect on a patient’s overall impression of a healthcare facility. Intake nurses need to combine a welcoming and helpful attitude with the ability to assess a patient’s needs. Sometimes the role may be relatively basic, with an intake coordinator taking a patient’s vital statistics, asking a few questions about a patient’s overall health and well being, and assigning a patient a room to see a doctor or sending them to a lab for bloodwork. Other times, the job can be more specific and demanding. For instance, if you are doing intake in an emergency room, you will need to have a very high skill set (and probably more nursing experience) in order to assess which patients need to be seen right away, which can wait, and who goes where.

Similarly, an intake nurse working for a home health program, for example, needs a broad range of skills. You will likely need to assess the patient’s health and family situation, take a patient’s medical history, assess a plan of care, and coordinate that care with the patient’s family and doctors.

Working as an intake nurse entails carrying a good deal of responsibility. Your education may depend on where you work and what kind of intake work you do. At a minimum, you need an RN license which can be obtained via an associate’s degree or diploma program. For some intake jobs, it would definitely benefit you to have at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and nursing experience. Regardless of your educational background, if you take on the role of intake nurse, you are doing important work. An intake nurse is the first contact many patients make with a healthcare facillity, and as such, can positively influence the patient’s entire experience.

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