07 August 2015

Technology should support nurses, not overtake them

The development and implementation of new technology is an almost daily occurrence in our fast-paced world. Whether it’s a new piece of software for recording patient observations or the installation of new equipment, technology is changing frequently and we have to adapt.

Often it’s for the best and technology can support a positive patient experience in several ways; reducing the paperwork load on nurses freeing up their time for patients, reducing the need for duplicated records and repetitive manual communications to MDT members.  It should mean that nurses feel resourced, supported and able to spend time nursing. But is that the case?

In a recent #NurChat discussion, the topic of technology in nursing and how far is too far drew in 54 participants from across the healthcare sector to share their experiences of using technology in their careers and their thoughts for future developments.

Many echoed the benefits of technology when it is useful for staff and patients, however the implementation of new systems or software can inhibit the desired benefits. Ensuring a new technology is adopted and utilised both effectively and safely should involve initial training but also regular updates and peer support. In some cases, staff have been presumed to be able to just ‘pick it up’, which can lead to frustrations and more time being spent figuring out the system than focussing on the patient.

Social media is a key technology highlighted that can support nurses. As everyone involved in #NurChat can attest, it allows for instant communication with colleagues across the world free of any hierarchical barriers and offers a platform for constructive professional debate. With online access to research journals and best practice, there are several resources available for nurses to keep skills and practice up to date.

While most technology can support the role of the nurse, taking it to the extreme ‘de-humanised’ approach, several people felt technology couldn’t ever replace a nurse’s ability to read body language, touch, feel and listen to a patient.

However, some technological developments that would be welcomed solve simple, occupational issues. For instance, the use of video chat for communicating with patients or colleagues could be more widely employed. Two examples of its use were to deliver training to colleagues in distant geographic area and video clinics for residents in a nursing home. Another possible development was the use of video conferencing to enhance or replace e-learning.

Join us again for #NurChat on 18th August at 20:00 UK time. Visit NurChat.co.uk for more information.