It’s impossible to think back even a few years ago and not be able to identify how some significant technology upgrade has changed the way you live, work, or play. The same is true for those who work in the healthcare industry, especially for those who are on the front lines of patient care – Registered Nurses (RNs). Technology advancements have significantly changed the way that RNs administer patient care, has helped improve workflow and limit human error, and is even making the job safer and less physically challenging.
Take a look at 7 technology enhancements that are slowly being adopted in the nation’s top hospitals and health care facilities that have changed the nursing profession for the better.
Some hospitals are incorporating advanced Communication Systems, in which nurses and other members of the health care team can text message, speak, and receive patient alarms through their smart phone devices using specialized apps. This concept replaces antiquated paging systems, and helps the whole nursing unit stay in touch and work more efficiently with each other.
Soon, the days of endless paperwork, filling out patient charts, and having doctors fax over medical records will be gone for good as more and more hospitals and facilities convert to EHR, which allows healthcare providers to access patient information with a few keystrokes. With an extensive patient history easily accessible and all in one place, it cuts down on human error, alerts nursing staff to possible drug interactions, and keeps track of diagnostic test results.
Just as GPS tracking has revolutionized the way we travel, a system of tagging and tracking medical equipment can increase hospital efficiency. That’s been the case at Texas Children’s Hospital, which was named the “Most Wired Innovator” by Hospitals and Healthcare Networks, the publication of the American Hospital Association, in part because of its real time locating systems (RTLS). Using radiofrequency identification tags, ultrasound, and/or infrared, the system helps nursing staff locate the nearest blood pressure machine, for example. While this seems simple enough, being able to centrally monitor equipment helps tremendously with bed management and patient care routines, a big RN responsibility, as explained in an article by AmercianNurse.org.
It makes everyone’s life easier – both RNs and patients – when diagnostic exams can be performed non-invasively. Thanks to new technologies, there are more options available now to perform minimally invasive tests and treatments. This helps lower risk of infection, and over time, is more cost effective. Some examples include nanotechnology like handheld biosensors that can detect a range of diseases from miniscule body specimens. Another example is Texas Children’s Hospital’s use of ultrasound technology to place peripheral IV (PIV).
According to research by Purdue University Global, many hospitals are implementing drug delivery systems in the form of implantable devices that release medication into patients. This aids RNs since they can schedule complex dosing to ensure patients get the medications they need in the right amounts and at exactly the right moment. Not only does this reduce human error, but it allows nurses to focus on other aspects of patient care.
Walk into any hospital, and you’ll hear the constant beeps and alarms coming from various patient rooms, keeping nurses constantly walking the floors to respond. Oftentimes, the alarms are false, which ends up causing “alarm fatigue,” as this article refers to it. It also takes the nursing staff’s attention away from more pressing patient matters. To combat this problem, smart alarm technology can better monitor a variety of patient vital signs all through one system, including blood pressure, pulse rate, etc. By having one single integrated system to measure physiological indicators, the alarm system will be more streamlined and efficient.
Here’s a scary stat, but one that if you’re an RN, will probably not surprise you: VA records showed that more than 2,400 of its nursing staff suffer debilitating injuries every year from lifting patients, as reported by NPR. As such, the VA committed to a program back in 2008 to transform all of its 153 hospitals to help prevent nursing staff from getting hurt. A few years later, and the VA has spent more than $200 million on what it calls “the safe patient handling program,” says the article. The centerpiece of these upgrades include patient lifting technology that takes the back-breaking task of moving patients out of nurses’ hands. While many hospitals have such technology in various units, VA hospitals are trying to make the technology the norm for every patient room. Since the implementation of the program in the VA hospitals, they report a 40 percent reduction in nursing injuries from moving patients.
Although ever-evolving technology requires RNs to stay up-to-date with the latest innovations, doing so will not only make their jobs more efficient, but also help them maintain a competitive edge for career advancement.
By Dawn Papandrea
Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more. Visit Dawn on Google+ and at her website.