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The UK’s nursing scene has undoubtedly come a long way since the humble beginnings of Florence Nightingale. But while many of the core soft skills such as compassion, communication and quality care remain essential components of a nurse’s remit, one cannot deny that nursing has become a dynamic and modern profession in recent years.
With International Nurses Day fast approaching on Saturday 12th May, we examine the role of technology in the evolution of nursing, and highlight what it means to be a modern nurse in 2018 and beyond.
Following two digital summits between 2015 and 2016, the Royal College of Nursing launched their ‘Every Nurse an E-Nurse’ campaign, with the aim to ensure that nurses across the NHS have the tools, skills and resources they need to make the best use of technology and act as effective e-nurses by 2020.
Within the past 10 years, many advances in technology have been made available to help nurses perform their jobs and care for patients more efficiently and safely. Consequently, nursing today isn't the same as it was 30 years ago. From such inventions as tablet computers and mobile electronic charts, to radio-frequency identification enabled devices, the healthcare landscape is becoming more advanced and efficient, and the field of nursing is continuing to adapt along with these advances.
Technology and data are undoubtedly transforming healthcare, presenting a wide array of opportunities to improve treatment, patient safety and care. For this reason, it is vital that nurses have the skills they need to both keep up with the wave of technological transformation and make the most of the opportunity to provide a more efficient healthcare service.
“Embracing new technology is a help, not a barrier, to improving patient care. It is important that the professions respond positively to these opportunities and that's why being a modern nurse, in other words an 'e-nurse', matters,” writes Anne Cooper, Chief Nurse at NHS Digital.
“Being an e-nurse means we have to develop new skills and capabilities to deal with the fast-paced digital world. For example, we need the skills to enable us to support people who want to communicate digitally and to help people access new digital resources that are safe and evidence-based,” Anne continues.
Below, we break down her views on how technology will continue to improve both the nursing profession and patient care.
1. A safer service
Technology and information can make nursing safer because we can share information about patients with other professionals also involved in their care. An e-nurse has to understand what good information governance looks like and how to share information safely.
2. Reduce unwarranted variations
Data can help reduce unwarranted variation. It allows us to identify where there are gaps; the health and wellbeing gap, the care and quality gap and the funding and efficiency gap. Nursing, midwifery and care staff have a crucial role in this drive. There are some reasons why health and care outcomes may vary over which we have no control. Unwarranted variations are those which we could change if we choose to. They can be a sign of poor quality care, missed opportunities and waste, and can result in poorer outcomes, poorer experience and increased expense. Data helps us to explore these opportunities.
3. Increased efficiency
Using technology can make us more efficient. There is evidence emerging that recording observations on electronic devices that raise alerts if there is deterioration in the patient's condition also helps to save time. It is also a much safer way of observing patients and helps in identifying deterioration early.
4. A greater focus on disease prevention
Apps and wearables also help us to grasp opportunities to support some people to stay fit, healthy and well - 'All Our Health' calls on practitioners to make sure we all use their skills and relationships to maximise their impact on avoidable illness, health protection and promotion of wellbeing and resilience. This could include encouraging people to use tools and devices.
In short, technology continues to have an impact across all areas of our daily lives, and the healthcare sector must adapt to this change in order to better meet the needs of patients.
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