We’re living in a digital age where everything is touched by technology. Our homes, our vehicles, our relationships, and of course, our jobs are all connected to tech in one way or another. While technology has a clear place in certain professions like design and business, other professions are welcoming technology as it advances and growing with it. One such profession is nursing. While it makes sense for healthcare at large to use technology for certain things (think MRI machines, lab work, ultrasounds, sonograms, X-rays, and the like), nursing is a much more personal and dependent on human interaction and relationship building. How, then, does technology fit in with nursing? The answer is split into two categories: advantages and disadvantages of technology in nursing. To learn more about how technology is helping and hurting nursing, read on.
Technology and Nursing: What is Telehealth Nursing and Telemedicine?
New developments that combine technology and nursing are known as telehealth and telemedicine. Telemedicine is a delivery system that has become popular amongst various healthcare circles and telehealth is a newer nursing career path that allows nurses to deliver exceptional patient care in a “hands-off way.” In other words, telehealth allows people to get healthcare advice, medication, and some treatment from a distance. Though revolutionary, this new nursing path comes with many drawbacks, making it one career path that embodies both the disadvantages and advantages of technology in nursing.
When broken down, “tele” means “at a distance,” which means that telemedicine is medical care that comes from a distance or away from the office. Telenursing, then, is defined as “the use of technology to deliver nursing care and conduct nursing practice.” Telehealth, telemedicine, and telenursing come with many advantages such as being able to see their patient(s) face to face without being in the same place, access to information via the internet, and even money saved since the cost of travel is no longer a factor. On the other hand, however, telenursing can feel impersonal, connectivity issues can arise between the nurse and patient in need, and privacy may be an issue if the patient is not able to be alone during their consultation like they would be at the hospital or health clinic.
Many of these advantages and disadvantages are echoed in technology in nursing at large.
Advantages of Technology in Nursing
It’s no secret that technology is meant to make our lives easier, so it stands to reason that technology in nursing should make nursing easier as well. With this in mind, we’ll run through some of the benefits and advantages of technology in nursing:
- Improved Communication Leading to Improved Patient Care: One of the biggest advantages of technology in nursing is that tech makes it easier for nurses to communicate with patients. For example, if a patient has a minor health concern like a rash or a bruise, they can use technology to either video chat with their nurse or doctor and speak face to face without having to be together in person. This element allows the nurse and patient to speak freely with one another so that any concerns may be voiced and all advice and directions can be given.
- Better Education: Technology is transforming how nursing is taught. With the help of technology, teachers are able to connect with their students in new ways while also providing them with professional content, resources, and personalized learning exercises. Whether taking nursing education online or in person, technology revolutionizes the classroom by making communications, research, and resources easier to handle. What’s more, nursing students now have access to cool new tools like live and online-based simulations, applications, reference guides, textbooks, virtual classrooms, electronic training mannequins, and more.
- Improved Treatment: Over the decades, there have been tons of technological advancements that have changed the face of nursing care and patient treatment. Not only can nurses communicate with their patients better, but technology has made treatment better than ever before. In a list of technologies that changed nursing forever, some tools like electronic IV monitors, the portable defibrillator, hands-free communication options, and drug management technologies are just some of the new tech tools that have transformed the efficiency and treatment and nursing care.
- Better Kept Records: One of the most dangerous things about healthcare without technology is keeping records manually. Whether the stats and health data of patients were written out manually and stored in simplistic ways like in folder and filing cabinets or online spreadsheets, the risk is always the same: data can be lost, damaged, stolen, or vulnerable to issues of time like yellowing paper, smudged or fading handwriting, stains, rips, and more. Electronic health records (EHR) allow healthcare professionals to keep track of patient stats and data in a simple and accurate way, leading to fewer medical error and better quality patient care. Information is saved securely and easily accessible, making it simple to find certain data, notice patterns, and more.
Disadvantages of Technology in Nursing
Of course, with every good thing, there come some drawbacks. The following are some of the disadvantages of technology in nursing:
- Set Up and Internet Access: An important disadvantage of technology in nursing is that some patients may not be savvy with technology. Some patients may not have mobile phones or Internet access, making applications and video visits useless for them. While this may not be a total disadvantage, it is a rather important barrier that nurses and other healthcare professionals must keep in mind when using tech to revolutionize patient care and interactions.
- Malfunctioning Equipment: One of the biggest headaches of technology is what happens when technology just doesn’t work. Technology may be useful and an efficient way to make life easier, but when it fails, it can really derail the whole day. This is especially true for organizations that rely on technology for almost all their operations. With this in mind, you need to ensure that you have someone ready and accessible to fix any technical problems that may arise as well as a backup method to provide patient care.
- At the Mercy of the Server/Power: Another issue for technology in nursing, both in the healthcare facility and classroom, is being at the mercy of the Internet and power server. If either of these things goes down due to weather, connectivity problems, or natural disasters, you’re basically unable to do anything at all. This would be especially problematic in a nursing classroom setting if simulations and virtual technologies are being used as well as in a hospital when conducting video calls or procedures that require machinery.
- Potential Lack of Attention to Detail: Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of technology, in general, is that people can come to rely on it a little too much. This means that because their tech is supposed to the fastest, smartest, and most accurate there is, they are less likely to question it or think for themselves when something seems off or is inaccurate. While technology in nursing should lead to fewer medical errors, there is no guarantee that it will eradicate ALL errors. Human efficiency and thought are still important, which is why nurses, doctors, and patients must remember that technology does not always have the final say. There is still plenty of room for error, and all diagnoses, treatments, and care plans should be double and triple checked to ensure safety an accuracy overall.
Technology will always have its advantages and disadvantages, but the bottom line is that it really does make our lives easier. The thing to remember is that we must use our own human intelligence and ingenuity in conjunction with technology for the best results. If nurses keep this in mind, there’s no telling how far and wide the field can expand.
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