Technology and Nursing: The Impact of Technology

Abstract

The research paper will provide an overview of technology about the role of a nurse. As the days of manual charting become a thing of the past, new technology is paving the way into the 21st century. The research paper will explore the impact that technology has had not only on the ways nurses perform documentation but also on the devices they must be able to understand and operate when it comes to the provision of care to the patient. Additional areas of focus include; the effect of technology on communication amongst physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and the laboratory. Furthermore, the research paper explores the impact technology is having on both the nurse and the patient.

Introduction

It is universally acknowledged that virtually all human engagements have felt the impact of technological advancement, particularly towards the last decades of the twentieth century and the first decade of the current century. In particular, the provision of quality health care services has notably been gaining improved status. This has been facilitated by the integration of information and communication technology into the broader field of medicine which includes; clinical services, nursing, pharmacy, and laboratory processes (Bates, 2008). Nursing informatics has witnessed the availability of resources, devices, and effective methods necessary for the acquisition, maintenance, retrieval, and the proper use of information in the provision of health care services. According to recent research, a modern nursing department, especially in the United States of America, is characterized by computerized communication and management systems (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009).

The research paper seeks to focus on the historical development of technology in the nursing field, the impact of computers on charting, and how technology has improved communication processes for nurses. It will also analyze the impact of technology on nurses’ work and the attitude of nurses towards the new technologies. Furthermore, the research paper will conclude the general impact of technological advancement on the nurses’ provision of health care as well as its influence on the patient.

History of Technology in Nursing

It is evident, according to research, that the practice of nursing has been constantly evolving for as long as nursing has existed (Hanlon, Strangleman, Goode, Luff, Cathain, et al., 2005). A significant change, in particular, has been witnessed due to the dynamic advancements in technology. As mankind progresses in exploring the medical sciences, computerization and the invention of newer technologies have continued to revolutionize the methods of collecting and processing data with an aim of enhancing the quality of services provided by medical professionals, especially the nurses (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009). The nursing profession has witnessed exponential growth over a significantly long period of time now. The concept of nursing informatics was first coined by a Frenchman known as Francois Gremy (Warren & Connors, 2007). However, in a strict sense, nursing informatics evolved from the 1960s. This language of relating information technologies to nursing was primarily used during the Tokyo MEDINFO Conference in 1980 (Suominen, Lehtikunnas, Back, Karsten, Salakoski, & Salanterä, 2007).With the need to improve the nursing profession, post-industrialized countries sought to embrace the new field of nursing informatics and subsequently, it took root during the second half of the previous century (Gassert & Bolton, 2005).

The modern advances in information technology have seen the improved quality provision of services to the patients by the nurses. In fact, research findings reveal that nursing informatics is at the present an independent field of study in most states of America (Warren, & Connors, 2007). The most current technology systems include computerized charting and barcoding which are used for the administration of medication (Hanlon et. al., 2005). Others include; wireless communications, systems that can locate real-time positions, robotic delivery, management systems that control their flow, distant patient management systems, as well as interactive patient systems (O’Keefe-McCarthy, 2009). Additionally, there is the alarm or event messaging system and biomedical device integration which are also used in the present nursing practice. As a result, past errors have been minimized leading to improved quality provision of nursing services. The challenge of using these new technologies has been inevitable due to the training required and hence consuming a lot of time (Gassert, & Bolton, 2005). Most nursing programs in the United States of America are looking forward to ensuring that their students get acquainted with the modern informatics systems and technologies in order to cope up with the ever-changing health care industry (Warren, & Connors, 2007). Unfortunately, some of the nursing institutions still lack the necessary resources to train competent nurses in this information technology age.

The future of the nursing profession as far as information and communication technology (ICT) is concerned is still a topic of debate and is filled with uncertainty (Bates, 2008). Concerns of how this field will receive funding, and worries of lack of the same funding thereof seem daunting tasks for the health care experts. Nursing informatics experts are doing the much they can to ensure that they bring in new technologies into the practice of nursing (Gassert, & Bolton, 2005). There are also those who are looking forward to implementing electronic health records and also embracing the integrated health care systems, save for the mentioned concerns. With an aim of shaping the future, VHA, Inc., which is an association of health care systems modeled to offer members the best-practice services and solutions, is working on how to bring reform to the health information technology (Warren & Connors, 2007). The group notes that the future of nursing informatics lies in the active participation and contributions from the nurses themselves. This is mainly due to the funding promised by the federal government. The nurses will be expected to play a central role in coming up with and utilizing improved electronic records in the medical profession.

As the second decade of the 21st century gets underway, there is increasing attention given to the health care industry, which nursing is part of, by the U.S. government (McClure, & Burnes Bolton, 2003). Pro-health reformists are demanding the spread of electronic health records to all states indicating that there is a need for the universal use of technology in the nursing field. In fact, America aims at ensuring that the entire nation has access to electronic medical services and records by the year 2014 (Warren & Connors, 2007). This implies that there must be collaboration among all the stakeholders, the relevant agencies and educational institutions so that competent workforce is available to drive this dream.

Computerized Charting

According to research, computerized charting is one of the modern technologies that have helped transform how nurses do their job (O’Keefe-McCarthy, 2009). Computerized charting is a systematic way of documenting or recording patients’ information in an electronic format. These records either computerized or on paper, need to be updated on a regular basis in order to ensure that progressive medical attention is given to the patient (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009).

The data entered during charting include but are not limited to variations in pulse rate, respiration, body temperature, and other measurable medical variables of the client. Furthermore, all nursing care history, doctor’s examination results, laboratory outcomes, and other nurses’ observations are also recorded.

Generally, study findings reveal a number of advantages of computerized charting (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009). The recorded information is always legible and standardized, the date and time of data collection are automated, the abbreviations used by the system are consistent with the accepted list, and information is easily accessible to the stakeholders, especially between the physicians and the nurses. Also, confidentiality of individually identifiable medical records is also assured through the use of passwords or screen savers despite the bulk of work in the office. Moreover, electronic records are easily retrievable and take less space (Bates, 2008). However, computerized charting has some drawbacks, for instance the cost of purchasing the computer system as well as the time and cost of training personnel on its use. During instances of power failure and or mechanical malfunction, nurses are forced to use older tedious methods and data may be lost as well (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009).

On learning how to use the system, the creation of a comprehensive patient’s chart on a computer by nurses has made it easy for them to track what has been done for individual clients (Crocker & Timmons, 2009). This way is so simplified with no risk of omitting details compared to the former use of paperwork. The system is easy to use since computer terminals are placed at the patient’s bedside. Data is entered mostly by touching the screen or by use of an electronic pen or even the keyboard as a typist would do. The information is then saved to the patient’s record. According to a study to evaluate the efficacy of computerized charting, there is increased accuracy in the documentation of comprehensive data by nurses (Hanlon et. al., 2005). The ease of recording data has been facilitated by the use of computer terminals placed at the patient’s bedside which, according to research findings, the nurses prefer compared to the use of centralized terminals (Suominen et. al., 2007). The use of this method has also been found to save considerable amount of time and the doctors usually find the quality of information collected by the nurses to be within acceptable limits.

Technology and Communication

As has already been mentioned, technology has affected virtually all operations of the health care industry. Particularly, communication among the medical professionals has been influenced by technology. It has resulted in improved communication within the healthcare system, especially due to automation (Bates, 2008). The computerization of information has enabled the nurses to access doctors’ orders and recommendations as soon as they are entered into the system. Moreover, pharmacists can update patients’ medications without having to send the order up through paper documentation which would take a lot of time. Automation of most of the services in the entire healthcare system has helped increase the rate and accuracy of communication (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009).

Impact of Technology on Nurses

Technological advancements and their innovation in the health care industry have received mixed reactions from the members. According to a recent study, it has been found that nurses prefer to work in health care facilities where safety, high quality, as well as job satisfaction and security are given the top priority (Gassert, & Bolton, 2005). New technological applications have allowed nurses to devote much of their time and proficiency towards providing quality care to patients. This is due to reduced time spent tracking equipment to use, managing provisions, and walking up and down looking for physicians and other staff members (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009). The new systems have significantly been beneficial for the inpatient nurses and have in turn raised their job satisfaction. Nurses who are comfortable with their jobs provide high-quality services to the patients. The majority of nurses interviewed regarded the computerization of hospital information as being very beneficial to their day-to-day work (Hanlon et. al., 2005). A majority of nurses who participated in the study indicated that they would welcome newer technologies due to their perceived positive impact.

However, it is also evident from research findings that nurses provide computerized services depending on personal encounters with complex technologies (Crocker & Timmons, 2009). Nurses, therefore, are challenged to advance their technological capabilities through training in order to provide the specific needs of the patient and thus be part of the changing system.

Impact of Technology on Patient Care

Technology change has had notable impact on patient care and as the trends indicate, this will continue for as long as these advancements occur. According to research, most hospitals embrace technology since they understand that they need to spare more time for inpatient care (O’Keefe-McCarthy, 2009). There has been positive contribution arising from the use of the new technology as far as patient care is concerned. Properly coordinated operations among the stakeholders like nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and family have ensured quality service provision for the patient.

According to research by Suominen et. al. (2007), the use of the new technologies has raised significant ethical considerations despite the numerous positive contributions. These include medical information privacy and nurse-patient relationships. Modern technological devices used in hospitals especially in the intensive care unit have the capacity to replace one-to-one communication between nurses and patients (Bates, 2008). They can inform and control the type of nurse care provided to the patient. This is so helpful when it comes to dealing with critically ill patients who cannot communicate personally. This new approach has transformed the moral and social relationships between nurses and patients. The nurses rely heavily on technology to interpret and evaluate clinical patient outcomes (Crocker & Timmons, 2009). The patient’s verbal complaints have been cut off from reaching the nurse directly since the technological devices come in between the nurse and the patient. Nurses’ moral agency is limited by the uncritical use of technology which has negative impact on general patient care (O’Keefe-McCarthy, 2009). Moreover, nurses rely on technology to provide the interpretation as well as the evaluation of the data collected. The information will then be used in deciding which care the patient deserves.

Whether the technology has altered the therapeutic role of nurses or not is still a topic under debate. According to research, the reduction of time spent by nurses in collecting medical data is spared so that nurses can interact with the patients more closely (Alexander & Wakefield, 2009). This is believed to enhance the nurses’ role as moral agents. However, some study findings reveal that technology has withdrawn nurses from the patients within a social context and hence cannot permit any meaningful therapeutic process to occur (Gassert, & Bolton, 2005). Nonetheless, the quality of patient care has unquestioningly improved since the advent of the new technologies due to their critical use.

Conclusion

The research paper has elaborated on the impact of technological advancement on nursing as a profession. It has discussed its historical development and future expectations. Computerized charting has been focused on as one of the most current systems employed by nurses in documenting patients’ medical information and the benefits associated with this technology. The impact of technology on communication within the healthcare industry has also been highlighted. Furthermore, the paper has discussed the influence of the new technologies on nurses and hence patient care as well as the arising ethical issues. We can therefore conclude from the analysis that technology has, is, and will continue to impact significantly on the healthcare industry, particularly the nursing profession. Whether the influence will be positive or otherwise will depend greatly on the critical use of the technologies.

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