Intake nurses -- sometimes also called admission nurses -- are the first caregiver a patient will encounter during a hospital stay. Although not every hospital uses an intake nurse, those that do provide the patient and the clinical team with a dedicated professional who handles basic triage and acclimates the patient to the medical center.
Intake nurses evaluate incoming patients to determine the severity of their illnesses and the intensity of services they will require while in the hospital. Most often, an intake nurse is associated with a patient-placement department or a dedicated admissions unit. The nurse will be the first caregiver that spends a significant amount of time with the patient, collecting medical-history information and discussing medication histories and a likely plan of care. The intake nurse will also give the patient information about what to expect during her stay.
An intake nurse requires a minimum of a nursing license. However, given the more complex decision-making that an intake nurse must exercise, many hospitals require intake nurses to have either a bachelor's degree in nursing or a minimum of five years' experience as a bedside RN.
Skills and Experience
A successful admission nurse will be skilled at "processing" patients -- that is, working with one patient and then sending her off to another nurse's care. Intake areas are often fast-paced and require good judgment to determine the initial course of the patient's care. For that reason, intake nurses in inpatient settings are usually more experienced; new nursing graduates may not have the skills needed to be successful in an intake role.
Although workloads vary according to the hospital's volume, a normal intake nurse should expect to see three or more patients per hour during a normal shift, for comprehensive admission reviews, and six or more patients per hour for basic triage and evaluation.
Compensation and Outlook
Many hospitals pay intake nurses slightly more than a normal bedside nurse, because of the mix of skills the role requires and the experience level of the average intake nurse. Although nursing in general is an in-demand job, intake nursing is highly dependent on the culture of a specific hospital--not all hospitals use intake nurses, and some hospitals have closed their admission units in recent years.