Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 19, 2023

Holistic nursing practice and technology

Nurses are caring and compassionate people who dedicate themselves to providing the best possible treatment to their patients. They are trained to be intuitive and proactive, to identify patients’ needs, and to act accordingly. In emergency situations, nurses apply critical analysis and make life-saving decisions.

Seeking out holistic solutions when caring for their patients, nurses address the patient’s emotional and psychological needs as well as their physical ailments. As they go about their task of providing the best medical care, nurses keep in mind any social, religious or ethnic differences that may affect the patient’s wellbeing.

In today’s technology-driven world, however, nursing is not simply about patient care and the administration of medication and treatment. Nurses are surrounded by computerized equipment and systems that assist them in recording and accessing patient information, monitoring patients’ progress, and aiding with the caring and healing processes. They are required to operate sophisticated machinery as they perform their daily nursing duties, analyze information provided by computer systems, and capture results for later retrieval and analysis.

How does technology affect nursing practice?

It’s important to note that technology can never take the place of a nurse. As far back as the 1800s, nurses were trained to take the ‘whole person’ into account when treating their patients – spiritually, mentally and physically.

The benefits of comprehensive patient information

The collection of patient and medical data over time enables nurses to utilize and analyze patient information that can be stored for current and future reference. Having patient data on hand at any given time saves time and possibly lives, particularly when the patient is admitted to a facility for emergency treatment.

Comprehensive patient data can also be analyzed by doctors and nurses when considering changes to the way that they currently administer healthcare to patients.

Patient data and statistics regarding the medical interventions used and the outcomes thereof are particularly useful to researchers who need to determine the efficiency of treatments and whether to further develop their methods or change tack.

With the ease of access to personal data, doctors and nurses can identify medical problems and treat them in time. Doctors can consult the patient’s medical history when considering new interventions and to effect any changes to treatments or medication with the confidence of having the historical facts at hand.

Medical professionals can now identify patterns in patient illnesses or behaviors and are able to make improvements in the methods used for caring for individual patients.

Computerized equipment monitors patients’ progress and vital signs, sending out alerts and warnings, often in less time than it would take a nurse to manually identify a problem. These systems enable the prompt treatment of illnesses when time is of the essence, giving faster and more accurate diagnoses and facilitating the administration of more specific treatment based on sophisticated diagnostics. This not only saves time but also avoids unnecessary treatment and the costs thereof – a benefit to both patient and hospital.

Technology enables the efficient packaging of chronic medication, reducing the risk of mistakes when administering medicines. Allergies to specific medications can be recorded on the patient’s profile so that medical practitioners are aware of potential adverse effects from prescribed medications and are able to make informed decisions when prescribing new medications that may clash with existing ones.

It must be noted here that data integrity and safety are concerns, however, and keeping patient information confidential is of the utmost importance. Although access to patient information is important to medical personnel, there should be mechanisms in place to protect the data and limit access to a select group of personnel.

Working with interdisciplinary teams

Based on the individual patient’s needs, interdisciplinary medical and therapeutic teams are formed to provide a holistic source of intervention by professionals from multiple disciplines. An example of this would be post-operative care in the form of physiotherapy and specific dietary needs. The nurse creates a communication channel between the various team members: the surgeon, the referring general practitioner, a physiotherapist and a dietitian. The coordinating nurse provides access to information regarding proposed treatment methods and medications prescribed by the various team members.

The nurse organizes consultation times and online meetings to discuss the patient’s progress and provides updates on the status of the patient at regular intervals. Communication channels between interdisciplinary teams save time and eliminate the possibility of an overlap in treatment administered by the various professionals. Team members are also able to observe and learn from their colleagues. This holistic approach to treatment is beneficial to all concerned: patients, physicians, nurses, therapists and the clinical organization. The information may also be recorded on the patient’s file for future reference.

Evidence-based practice and why it is important

The trend in many hospitals, clinics and nursing homes today is toward evidence-based practice (EBP). Based on a combination of extensive research into practices that have had positive effects on patient outcomes, as well as input from experienced medical practitioners and nurses, and taking into account the patient’s preferences, EBP has been found to be a more effective option in the treatment of patients. Junior nurses who are required to follow tried-and-tested EBP procedures have more confidence while still in the learning phase; and this method also eliminates the need to follow advice from fellow colleagues or friends, or follow personal beliefs that may or may not be based on sufficient experience. When following EBP methods, there is less likelihood of mistakes occurring, and this in turn lessens the risk that hospitals and clinics run when it comes to malpractice lawsuits. It improves patient care and is more conducive to good health outcomes.

EBP relies on patient and procedural data that has been captured for the purposes of producing statistics that enable the assimilation of information for further analysis. The results of the analysis are coordinated by senior medical professionals who reference their years of experience and knowledge and use their judgment to develop procedures that nurses can follow for the treatment of patients.

Medical professionals who have a basic knowledge of informatics and what type of data has been stored are able to interact with the data specialists when requesting sets of data that are relevant to the exercise under way. The data received is then categorized and analyzed to provide the required evidence of treatment and patient outcomes.

The information gained from these exercises is used for designing future procedures, which are then formalized by incorporating them into the facility’s official policies and procedures. Before administering any procedure, however, nurses should always confirm whether the suggested practice is acceptable to their patient. Once the treatment or method has been administered, there should be a follow-up process to determine the efficiency of the method used and the outcomes documented in the patient’s records.

Nurses who feel that there may be an alternative to a current procedure may advocate for a different, or improved, method. The procedure for evaluating new methods of treatment involves gathering as much evidence as possible and using critical analysis skills to determine the validity of such evidence.

A higher qualification like the RN to BSN program at Spring Arbor University could be a bridge for  learning the advanced clinical and analytical skills required for more refined evidence based practice.

Today’s online courses make the transition from being a registered nurse to achieving a bachelor’s degree in nursing science more attainable. The Online RN BSN course provided by Spring Arbor University offers flexible study options that enable you to continue working at your current job while improving your nursing skills and knowledge. Students learn critical reasoning and leadership skills, how to communicate effectively and professionally with both colleagues and patients, and the fundamentals of ethical nursing practice.

The use of EBP has many advantages. It reduces costs and prevents possible complications occurring through the use of unreliable practices and inexperience. It encourages ongoing research into various methods of treatment and establishes tried-and-tested practices. EBP also highlights any new technologies that may be available and encourages facilities to implement such technologies. Medical personnel who are involved in the research and development of new practices are encouraged to use critical thinking and analysis skills, and there is always an opportunity to learn from the research.

EBP enables nurses to make informed decisions with confidence when providing patient care, and this in turn gives the patient more confidence and peace of mind. Nurses are required to consider the patient’s wishes, and this fosters a good relationship between patients and nurses. Better patient outcomes mean improved job satisfaction for nurses.

Constant striving for improved EBP results in professionalism and excellence within the nursing arena, and organizations that embrace evidence-based practices are more likely to increase their patient satisfaction levels, increasing the likelihood of patient retention and reducing their readmission statistics.

Patient portals

The development of patient portal software has meant that individual patients are now able to keep track of their medical history, such as vaccinations, medications and lab results.

Anyone with a secure internet connection can now access their personal medical files at no extra cost, taking charge of their medical wellbeing as they view their health options and make decisions based on the costs of procedures and what is available. Interoperability of the various systems means that patients can manage their medical options themselves, saving considerable time and money and improving relationships with their physicians and medical facilities. They can make comparisons and select treatment options that best suit their budget or meet the approval of their medical insurance scheme.

Remote care

With the advent of telemedicine technology, medical professionals are now able to consult with patients online and provide solutions to their problems.

Patients can be fitted with devices that monitor their condition and feed the information to their healthcare provider at a remote location, removing the need for long-distance travel and waiting in busy waiting rooms. Help is at hand, almost immediately.

Quality care and the safety of patients and medical personnel

Technology has resulted in improved safety measures regarding patient information and enhanced physical safety in terms of sophisticated equipment, monitors, warning mechanisms and more.

The use of diagnostic technology has improved the process of diagnosing illnesses, eliminating time wastage and guesswork and thus improving the rate and success of interventions.

Cleanliness in hospital facilities is of the utmost importance, with a systematic approach to cleaning and sterilizing hospital rooms, theaters and equipment being a non-negotiable component of hospital management.

The packaging of medicines has become more sophisticated with the aid of specialized dispensers and containers, eliminating the risk of administering incorrect medications or incorrect dosages.

Modern beds that can be adjusted to suit the patient’s position and mattresses made of specific material to fit the shape of the patient have resulted in the elimination of bedsores – often a concern for patient safety in the past.

Caring for elderly and disabled patients

Holistic nursing has a specific place in caring for elderly and disabled patients. People in nursing homes often suffer from depression because of their circumstances and usually have multiple chronic illnesses. Making use of holistic options when caring for these patients is essential, and technology has stepped up to help. Automation of wheelchairs, monitors for vital signs and breathing support machinery ease the task of caring for patients, leaving nurses more time to spend on activities such as physical exercise and games for mental stimulation. The presence of technology in the form of sound systems and televisions brings cheer to patients in these circumstances.

Holistic nursing and technology: inseparable and here to stay

Nursing has many facets, and we have touched on but a few. It is clear that the role of technology in nursing is beneficial in many respects and something that has become a way of life for most medical professionals, nurses included.

As a registered nurse with a desire to improve your professional status, technology is destined to play an important role in your life. Upgrading your skills to become more proficient in the handling of patient data and complex instruments is therefore an essential consideration when planning your future studies.

The constant and rapid improvements in technology are exciting and should be embraced as part of the quest to provide holistic care to patients. With a little imagination and creativity, nurses can make a world-changing difference in their patients’ lives.

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