What Impact Does Technology Have on Nursing?
Technology and nursing. A topic in today’s information age has received much attention. With the advancement of technology and the introduction of electronic medical records, the profession of nursing has changed greatly.By Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN
In fact, as a nurse myself, I have had very personal experience with this – in more ways than one.
First off was my introduction to my first nursing role as a psychiatric nurse.
I entered orientation on my nursing unit just as the organization was switching from paper charting to electronic records. For me, the brand-new nurse who did not know any better, the change was not felt. I jumped right in and starting learning the documentation systems.
However, as a nurse on orientation, watching and learning from other nurses… I saw many nurses who struggled.
Then came the workstations on wheels, the handheld tablets, and the electronic record upgrades. Nurses on my unit were overwhelmed. Many of them did not leave work on time. There was a huge learning curve as my workplace entered the technology era.
More recently, I am experiencing technology as a nurse entrepreneur. In fact, I am active on many social media platforms, online forums, blogs, and nursing communities. I continuously ask nurses across the country:
“What is one of your biggest challenges when it comes to nursing?”
No matter the demographic area, specialty of the nurse, or place of employment – I hear a common response. “There is no time with the patient. I feel as though I am behind a computer screen all day. The charting has just gotten out of control.”
Technology is a good thing. A great thing, one might argue.
Technological advances in healthcare have made things safer for patients and their families. New equipment and medical discoveries have saved lives and allowed patients with chronic illnesses to enjoy life longer. Even the documentation – with the introduction of the electronic record – patients are now able to be active members in the patient care team.
When I speak to nurses both on and offline, they tell me that the technology has made it more difficult for them to truly connect with patients.
The technology takes them away from the patient. The nurse has to respond to the many bells, whistles, alarms, and pagers. These distractions are not only annoying, but can increase the chances of making a mistake.
Additionally, technology impacts the satisfaction of the nurse themselves, since many enter this career for that personal connection they feel while interacting with patients.
Nurses enjoy sitting down, speaking to patients and families, and teaching them about their health, illness, and well-being. If a nurse feels trapped behind a computer screen, that sense of personal connection is lost and the nurse questions the value they are providing at work.
The list of “tech-related challenges” could go on and on. However, we all know that technology is not going away. It is here to stay in healthcare and will continue to grow as new research is conducted.
What is the nurse to do? How can nursing staff cope with – or even learn to appreciate – the technological impact in nursing?
What impact does technology have on nursing?
4 Ways Nurses Can Work With Technology
1) Ask for help. Easier said than done, right? As nurses, we do not like to show weakness. We put our heads down, wear the brave face, and get to work. Good? Not really!
Have you ever noticed that there actually are nurses that get out of work on time? Nurses that do the charting online, just like you do, but still manage to leave work on schedule?
Back to my personal experience on my psych unit, I was one of those nurses! Now I don’t claim to be a technology whiz. However, I am comfortable with a computer and enjoy learning ways to make my work faster and more efficient.
Is there a nurse on your unit that you can ask for help? Could you ask them if it would be possible for them to spend just 20 minutes with you one day, navigating the electronic record?
There are shortcuts and templates that can be introduced to every electronic charting system. Get with your super-user or that nurse who is always happily leaving on time. Sit down with them and learn what they do to get through their charting more quickly.
2) Practice presence. The reason so many of us feel distracted and rushed by technology is because we are failing to connect to the present moment.
Now before you leave me here, I am not talking about an hour-long meditation session in some far away retreat center in an uncomfortable pose. This is not necessary.
What I am offering is a way for you to invite more presence into your nursing practice so that you feel more connected to patients and less distracted by all of the alarms that compete for your attention.
Before entering a patient’s room or picking up the telephone to call a family member, pause. That is right. Anytime you are about to encounter a patient, stop.
Feel your feet on the floor. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Pause at the top of your breath. And then slowly exhale through your nose. That’s it!
Do that before each and every patient experience and you will feel more connected to the patient or family member in front of you.
3) Appreciate the positive. Sure, the electronic record can seem like a lot of clicking and picking. And those phones and pagers can get pretty darn irritating.
But think about it – what was it like when it was all paper? Remember the days when you could not read the doctor’s handwriting on an order! Were more mistakes made? Was the patient at harm? Did you have to do more work to track down the physician to ask them what they meant to say?
As I’ve said, the technology is not going anywhere. In fact, it will likely only increase. Instead of beating up against it, can you work with it?
A way to shift perspective is to focus on the positive. Even during the hardest of times or with the most difficult of co-workers… finding something to appreciate or be grateful for can make a world of difference.
At the end of each work day, make a list. Write down 2-3 things that you appreciated. Try to add one that is related to technology each day, asking yourself how the technological advancements made your day easier, better, or a mixture of both.
4) Balance the art with the science of nursing. I know that it seems that we are all stuck behind a computer screen these days. And maybe we are more involved with the computer than ever before. But there is a way to bring some joy back into nursing practice.
Invite the “art” back into your nursing career.
Make eye contact with the patient (where acceptable, of course). Touch the arm of the person that you are talking to. Get down on their level and speak to them one-on-one.
In terms of your own nursing career, remind yourself why you went into nursing in the first place. Any time that you have what I call an “ideal patient encounter,” go home and write this down. Journal about when a patient says “thank you”. Take note on how you feel when you do make a difference in the workplace.
Always be yourself as a nurse. Invite in your unique strengths, your personal attributes, and the hobbies you enjoy outside of your professional world. I will leave you with an example of this…
I once read a blog about a nurse who loved to sing. This nurse had a beautiful voice and worked in a long-term care facility. Every morning, as he was making his rounds with the medication cart, he would hum and sing softly in the hallway.
The residents started to take note of this voice and line up in the hall, just to hear him as he passed by. Sure, singing is not part of our job description. But this nurse loved to do it. And he was good at it, too!
Bringing some of “you” back into your professional role can help you cope with the science and enjoy the art of nursing again.
About the Author:
As a keynote speaker and author of Stop Nurse Burnout, Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN inspires nursing teams to reconnect with the passionate and fulfilling joy that once called them to their roles. She also offers advice to nursing students on the Online Nurse Practitioner Programs blog. When Elizabeth’s not teaching or presenting to nursing groups, you can find her enjoying her garden, walking her dog, or dancing to her favorite jam band, moe.