by Mike Liguori
ASK-A-NURSE, Centura’s free community health information hotline, again began serving Colorado health consumers after seven years under the "HealthAdvisor" name.
The name change is intended to attract a greater audience, Centura officials said.
ASK-A-NURSE originally started in Colorado in 1987, but the call center operated without the ASK-A-NURSE affiliation from 1998 until recently.
"Although many people know who HealthAdvisor is, more are familiar with the term ASK-A-NURSE," said Rolando Salinas, director of the Centura Health Call Center/ASK-A-NURSE program.
"Very few programs around the country have the longevity and experience that we offer to our callers," said nurse Mary Rathje, manager of the call center. "We answer calls from each of the areas around our Centura Health hospitals in the state of Colorado."
Centura Health’s call center is the exclusive ASK-A-NURSE facility in Colorado and is staffed by 23 registered nurses and 10 referral specialists, who field approximately 10,000 calls per month. The nurses provide information about health and wellness, as well as assess symptoms or questions about a particular illness or disease.
The types of questions received are typically seasonal - questions about burns, bee stings, bites and allergies are common in the summer, whereas questions related to cold and flu are common in the fall.
"I credit our continued success to the excellence of our staff and the support we receive from Centura Health to further our mission of caring for those who are ill and nurturing the health of the people in our communities," Rathje said.
"We look for nurses with at least five years of recent clinical experience. Our nursing staff has a variety of experience, from emergency room to labor and delivery. Currently, our staff has an average of 25 years of nursing experience," she said.
The call center staffers are happy to help with any question, however big or small.
"Some of our callers acknowledge to us, ‘This may be a silly question.’ However, if it is a concern for them, we consider it an important matter and try to help them as best we can," Rathje said.
Nurse Judy West said interpreting what the caller is saying and feeling is the most challenging aspect of the work.
"Getting specific information and finding the best way to help them over the phone lines can be a challenge," West said.
"Often a caller will make a return call to us to say, ‘Thanks so much to the nurse I talked to last night, it was so helpful,’ or something very similar. We provide an extremely valuable, free service to the communities we serve," Rathje said.
In addition to fielding calls from the community, the Centura Health Call Center also provides a postpartum callback service for new mothers. The registered nurses call new moms within 48 hours of their delivery to ask questions about their care, their mental and physical health, their newborn and more.
"Although our phone calls to new moms are made very early in their postpartum period, we do review with them symptoms of depression and any history of problems they might have had in the past," Rathje said.
Recently, the call center extended its hours for the Denver-metro area from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. to better serve the community.
For Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Grand County, Summit County and Canon City, the nurses take calls 24-hours-a-day. The ASK-A-NURSE telephone number is (303) 777-NURSE in the Denver-metro area.