National Nurses Week: How Technology Impacts Nursing

Nursing has changed a lot in the last 50 years.  Instead of white dresses and hats we wear hazmat suits and battery powered respirators.  Instead of carrying around a disorganized binder of written patient information, we chart on potentially hundreds of flowsheets in an Electronic Health Record.  Instead of picking up a phone and calling a call center to page an attending physician, we pick up a smartphone, send a detailed text message with our needs, and the issue is resolved nearly right away.
Nursing school is a grueling multi-year journey that teaches students not only to care for their patients but also how to truly care about their patients.  But with nursing education curriculum focused on care, often knowledge of new healthcare technologies can suffer.  The transition to more deeply integrated, advanced healthcare technology is inevitable – and is already underway many health systems – which creates both new opportunities and challenges for inexperienced and seasoned nurses alike.
As if nurses don’t already have busy jobs, staying involved in emerging clinical technology is fast becoming a prominent necessity in healthcare. Implementations of advanced touchscreen patient monitors, multi-layered EHRs, and Clinical Communication Platforms have transformed how healthcare teams communicate.  Nurses, as always, are not only responsible for having an intimate understanding of all health conditions but now the added layer of complexity that technology creates. Care can actually be slowed without the proper insight and training.
Since many nursing schools have yet to fully adapt their learning models to include the advanced technical components that students may eventually face, students should look to learn build a foundational understanding of healthcare technology and its components.  This can include continuing education in technology whether inside or outside of your health system, staying current via publications and newsletters, and participating in a trip to a healthcare IT conference like a regional or national HIMSS event (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society). These are great places to learn about the technology that exists in the clinical space today as well as what to expect in the future. 
It may seem daunting to learn so many new technologies, but once mastered, they can provide countless benefits. As a nurse, technology can streamline your processes and make you more efficient with administrative tasks. You can spend less time tracking down phone numbers and colleagues and more time focusing on why you got into nursing in the first place – caring for patients.
Additionally, technology is opening up new careers in nursing. Nursing technology & informatics is not only growing, but far out-pacing the growth rate in other jobs. The combination of clinical and technology experience offers up jobs in data analytics and education and providing new opportunities for jobs that did not exist even ten years ago.
I personally made the transition from a full-time clinical nurse to a Nursing Informatics Consultant to help other clinicians learn and understand how technology could help them provide better patient care. I can take my experience and use it to help implement technology based on workflows – and when our clinical customers have questions, my time as a nurse gives me a greater understanding of their concerns. I still, and likely always will, work as a clinical nurse too because in the same breath I couldn’t be who I am or offer the valuable insight that I do without also providing those improved outcomes with my own hands.
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