Technology will not replace nurses at the bedside, but applied appropriately can enable nurses to work smarter rather than harder, and help alleviate some of our complex practice issues. Yes, we need better staffing ratios, work environments and benefits for when our aging baby boomer population requires more care. But we also need to provide nurses with the right technology tools and support to enable them to deliver the best care possible. In fact, if we can make nursing “cool” from a technology perspective, then perhaps more young people would be attracted to the profession and help alleviate some of our nursing shortage.
Just as nursing theory has drawn from professions like psychology, sociology, physiology, anthropology and other disciplines to create better nursing practices, we should also draw from cutting edge technologies to help us provide better and more efficient care at the bedside. For example, just as manufacturing applied Toyota’s “lean” strategy, nursing has started applying it to health care by giving nurses the power to change their environment to support their ability to deliver better patient care. But there are still many, many ideas we can borrow from other industries. Waiters in restaurants, for example, can order food from the kitchen using a handheld device while customers are giving their food order.
As nurses, we should be able to order and/or charge supplies, chart medications, take and post pictures and chart all from one device. Nurses should be able to monitor patient vital signs, and automatically record changes to the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and receive notification of trending changes.
The technology solutions to achieve these simple, yet time and resource consuming tasks is available today, but have sadly been slow to adopt. I challenge you to ask you hospital why not? Why aren’t they using the technology that would help nurse to give better, more efficient, safer care to patients?