Nursing Toolbox

Nurses have traditionally had a fairly static set of tools in their nursing toolboxes: thermometer, scale, blood pressure cuff, and stethoscope (yes, we really do use them). More recent additions include heart rate monitors, oxygen saturation monitors and glucometers. Today, the addition of any number of new technologies threatens to upend the nursing toolbox, changing the face of care delivery.

Organizations considering the addition of new technologies into their nursing toolbox should make these choices with care. While there are many factors to be considered, a few stand out:

How will the new technology benefit the patient?

If the technology you are seeking to implement will in no way change or improve clinical care, why make the investment? A multicolored bracelet that flashes whenever the patient coughs may excite the technophiles, but most nurses would  rather monitor for cough using traditional nursing tools. Considering the investment, wouldn’t you? How will care delivery be improved, and to what end?

How will the new technology benefit the nursing staff?

Nurses are under extreme pressure to deliver the highest quality care to the highest acuity patients in the shortest amount of time. If the technology will cut documentation time in half or give nurses more time with patients, you’ll have their interest. If it will require them to document the same assessment data in two places instead of one, or change their focus from patient to gadget, not so much. If it will give nurses new and valuable insights into their patient’s health status, their engagement will be high, but only if those gains don’t come at the cost of patient care or excessive training time.

What is your return on investment?

Will your gains come in the form of improved efficiency and reduced staffing costs? Is technology implementation likely to result in increased patient or staff satisfaction and engagement? Will data collection enhance care delivery and improve outcomes? Is it plausible your agency will see a reduction in adverse events or increased patient safety? Will offering technology give you a competitive advantage in your market? Are increased revenue or referrals likely?

Who will guide the technology into patient care?

Your technology initiative needs a champion who understands both clinical practice and technology application. Trust me, such people are out there. Look for a high-performing clinician sporting the latest wearable while discussing their DIY home remodeling project. Once found, allow your champion to seek out learning opportunities and make contacts in the technology industry.  Give ample time for research and evaluation of products from the perspective of your current workflow. (LeadingAge CAST has a variety of great toolkits to assist with product selection and early considerations ( Thoughtful consideration prior to product selection and implementation will save everyone miles of heartache.

How will you engage your nursing staff?

Like any group adopting new technology, the engagement of the nursing staff will range from those who will gladly give your new technology a whirl on day one, to those who won’t participate in your training program without threats of unpaid suspension. Simply handing your nursing staff a new technology, reviewing use with a power point, writing some policies to safeguard against disaster, then expecting the nurses to then incorporate the technology into their daily practice is a recipe for disaster. The authority behind your clinical champion’s experience, knowledge and enthusiasm will go a long way toward engaging your nursing staff. Equally crucial is unflagging support of the technology initiative by mid-level management and the administrative team.

The future holds a wealth of new tools for nurses. But without proper consideration, new technology tools may sit unused and buried in the bottom of the toolbox. No one except the nurse performing patient care can make the choice to pull out your new technology tool to change care delivery. Be sure you get them to engage on the first go-round, or it may be that every future tool will end up at the bottom of your agency’s nursing toolbox as well.

– Daphne Karpan RN, BSN, CHPN