Devices & Technology

High-Tech Tools for Today’s – and Tomorrow’s – Nurses

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By Christina Orlovsky, contributor 

April 30, 2010 - As the patient population and the nursing workforce age, and the demand on health care workers continues to grow, technological solutions are becoming more and more important to help nurses work more safely, efficiently and effectively. And as the next generation of nurses enters the industry, the current technologies — and the more advanced ones to come — will surely play a crucial role in their profession.

Here, four leaders in nursing education and innovation share their thoughts on the most important recent innovations in health care technology and nursing education, as well as which technologies will be most beneficial to nurses in the near future:

Patricia A. Abbott, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, associate professor and co-director of the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for Knowledge, Information Management & Sharing; department of health systems and outcomes, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing; and the division of health sciences informatics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

What do you feel are the top three technological solutions that benefit nurses in their daily jobs? 

I would say smart phones, telehealth devices and electronic health records (EHRs). Smart phones because they allowed us to get rid of disruptive overhead paging. We can now page a nurse instead of searching high and low, and the other members of the care team can more easily communicate with one another by sending lab alerts, text messages, etc.  Smart phones—like the iPhone—are incredibly powerful, and there are lots of health applications being developed and deployed via smart phones. They’re like an extra brain in your pocket. 

Telehealth devices help people “age in place” and help chronic disease patients to better manage their disease in their homes. These are particularly helpful in rural areas, where nurses can now reach the geographically distant patients—what a wonderful way to reach those who do not have access to services. Also, visiting nurses can make “home visits” without physically going to patients’ homes, and instead of seeing five patients a day they can visit with 25 via devices that support video telephony.

Finally, EHRs, because they stop us from having to chase papers around, find charts, look for lab reports and more. 

Pamela Jeffries, D.NS., RN, FAAN, associate dean for academic affairs, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing 

What technologies are most useful in nursing education? 

High-fidelity simulations in nursing education that are student-centered and allow an opportunity for the students to be immersed in a realistic environment to problem-solve and perform clinical judgment in a safe, non-threatening environment.

There are so many skill sets and problem-solving issues students cannot perform in a real hospital environment because of safety issues. By replicating an environment in a simulation area, then immersing students in a clinical-based scenario to assess, implement, and critically think — all with the instructor observing to see how the students perform — we can provide clinical opportunities for students that they can never experience until they graduate.

For example, developing clinical scenarios where there are hand-offs and communication with physicians provides a realistic setting for our nursing students to work on interdisciplinary communication. This is extremely helpful because at times in traditional clinical practice, students can graduate from nursing programs without ever talking to a physician!

Deborah Conway, RN, MSN, director of the health care product evaluation center, University of Virginia School of Nursing 

What area of nursing could benefit most from new technology? 

I think we’re going to benefit from technology to help us deal with the coming core ratio of nurse to patient. Because of the aging population and lack of ability to produce nurses who will stay at the bedside, we will have to use the nurses we have in a much smarter way. Some of that will require ways of monitoring patients without running into the room, because all the running back and forth to get supplies is not a good thing or use of time. Plus, with aging nurses, they can’t do it forever. We have to have a way to have technology help us with this gap that’s staring us in the face in the near future. Therefore, any kind of smart technology that tells us what patients are doing without having to run to their room will be truly beneficial.

Carolyn L. Cason, Ph.D., RN, distinguished teaching professor, associate dean for research, University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing

Overall, where do you see the future of technology in nursing? 

As technological applications advance, care environments will become pervasive ones. Environmental and health sensors will not only provide a vast array of data but computational algorithms will be in place to alert care providers of the needs for action. In these environments — hospitals and homes — health care providers will need quite different skills and abilities than the health care providers of today. The challenge lies in transitioning health care providers from the environment in which they learn to the environments in which they will give care.

© 2010. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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