Managing nurse lines - practical challenges and the developing theory



As a fast growing specialty, medical telephone triage lines (nurse lines) play an important role in providing advice and recommendations to help ensure that medical care is delivered at the appropriate level. In this paper, we discuss the operations of these nurse lines, based on studies in the literature and interviews with nurse line researchers and practitioners. This leads us to identify issues relevant for the design and management of such lines, challenges that operations research (OR)/operations management (OM) can help address. We demonstrate that a classical call center modelling approach, focusing exclusively on congestion, will be insufficient in addressing these challenges. Thus, we motivate research on an integrated framework in which both congestion and decision-making accuracy are coupled. We summarise the limited extant research in OR/OM that is applicable to the unique challenges posed by nurse lines, highlighting these models’ contributions, as well as the questions they leave unanswered. These questions provide significant opportunities for future research.


health care; service operations; call center

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