How Nurses Can Steer Digital Decisions
Before investing in new technology, have the front line nurses been consulted?
Some time ago, while speaking about information technology at a conference of nursing executives, I asked the audience,“How many of you are familiar with the term ‘digital transformation?’”
Not one person raised their hand.
As I continued, people took notes and nodded in agreement with some of my points, but at the end of my talk, they had no questions. Mulling over this reaction afterwards, I realized that some of the nurse leaders didn’t know what to ask. Others may not have given the subject much thought because they didn’t view technology as something on which they should (or even could) provide leadership.
If that’s what they believed, they were wrong. Nurses are clinical leaders —whether they’re executives or caring for patients at the bedside — and their input on technology issues is absolutely essential.
Influencing decisions about digital solutions requires having a seat at the table. It also means asking the right questions.
Are nurses included in discussions about technologies that they will use?
If not, they should be. Health IT deeply impacts nurses’ work and therefore patient care, safety and experience. If a solution doesn’t fit clinical workflows, it can become a burden. Even if nurses perceive that a technology could be useful, they won’t adopt it if it creates barriers to information-gathering, colleagues or patients.
For example, if a solution requires the use of touch screens, a nurse would likely point out the potential challenges for those who wear latex gloves. Nurses can’t deliver care quickly or efficiently if they need to keep taking their gloves off and on to use a specific tool. If a technology is a hassle to use, nurses will either abandon it or be forced to find workarounds.
Nurses are ideally suited to thoughtfully inform technology discussions based on their clinical experience. They are likely to identify not only pitfalls, but also new and different ways a technology could be used in their clinical environments.
Have you started with the patient in mind?
My entry into nursing informatics was driven by the belief that patients should be at the center of all technology designed for patient care. When I was a nursing vice president at a large hospital, I had a discussion with a salesman who wanted me to look at the IV pump he was selling. I held it in my hand and explained to him, step by step and feature by feature, why it would not work for our patients. The salesman looked at me and said, “You need to be working for us.”