The future of nurses: superheroes assisted by technology
Being a nurse is a very demanding career, however, it is an authentically fulfilling job where many people’s lives are touched because of the care you give them. The human ability to be empathetic, caring, and attentive can never be replaced by technology. Nevertheless, new developments in technology will help relieve the nurses of the monotonous and repetitive tasks.
Nurses perform a wide range of fundamental tasks, from basic activities on the ward or in the operating blocks to prevention and rehabilitation, research and all-round patient care.
Nursing is highly demanding, and it is inspiring to see that technology is finally coming to their assistance. Through this article, we will look at some of the more promising technological examples.
1) Monotonous tasks are undertaken by robots
Robots could provide nurses with assistance in a variety of demanding jobs within a medical facility. Tasks like carrying medical devices from A to B, lifting patients who are bedridden, medication management, cleaning, and greeting patients and relatives in the hospital can all be supported by robots.
Two robots already making their mark in the hospital setting are the TUG robot and the RoboCourier. They are both capable of transporting medical machines, drugs, lab specimens, or any other sensitive supplies far easier. They are able to work around the clock, carrying carts and bins, etc. Both of these robots would allow nurses to spend more time doing what they do best – patient care.
There are more and more technological advances with robots in medicine, some of which can help nurses to deal with patients in stressful situations. The RoBear robot is a bear-shaped robot that can lift and move patients, helping patients stand, put them in a wheelchair, and turn them over to prevent bedsores. Moreover, robots act as companions for those who feel lonely or those who are suffering from mental health issues. Shaped like a seal-pup, Paro robot is cuddly and cute and can be used to help ease sadness and solitude and relieve stress. Pepper is a larger robot, standing at 1.2 meters tall. It is a social robot and is currently working at two Belgian hospitals as a receptionist.
2) Telemedicine reaching isolated communities
Technology advancements have allowed telehealth services to assist with counselling patients over the phone. In remote locations, or if a patient is unable to leave their home or has transportation problems, telemedicine is an effective tool to treat minor illnesses.
Telehealth can be used in emergency and non-emergency settings, and it means that nurses from across the globe can join in telephone triage set-ups. It allows nurses to monitor a patient’s heart rate, oxygen levels, breathing, blood pressure, and more. In non-emergency situations, nurses can guide patients over the phone on how to treat a minor burn or dress a wound.
3) Using technology to draw blood
Taking blood from a patient is often a pain for both patient and nurse alike. A lot of patients don’t like needles or phlebotomists and sometimes nurses have a hard time finding an appropriate vein. New advancements in robotics have brought innovations like Veebot for blood-drawing and VeinView and AccuVein for vein scanning. These robots could certainly help in the area of drawing blood, and in a lot of cases, the robots could take on the whole process in less than a minute. They are excellent at finding an appropriate vein, with research showing a 83% accuracy.
Furthermore, these hand-held vein scanners use AR technology to make patients’ and nurses’ lives far easier. AccuVein allows doctors and nurses to locate the capillaries by projecting the patient’s veins over the skin via AR. This method makes finding the blood vessels much easier, and the first insertion 3.5 times more likely. It has so far been used on over 10 million patients. Countries in need are also benefiting from these advancements as cheaper 3D printable versions are introduced to the market. A 3D printable vein scanner was designed by Alex Stanciu, a military-automotive engineer.
4) Explaining complex medical language using 3D printing
3D printing in healthcare can do amazing things. Some of the things that 3D printing is already being used for are prosthetic parts, organ models, finger splints, personalized casts, biomaterials, even food. These innovations are changing and aiding the role that nurses have with their patients.
Nurses are benefiting from the tools that 3D printing gives them access to. For example, nurses tasked with explaining medical procedures to patients can improve this process with an identical replica of the body parts or organs that the patient will be operated on. These tools can improve the conversations between caregivers and patients and allow patients to understand better what lies ahead. In Japan, researchers performed some experiments by cutting out plasters in fun designs, like animals, using 3D printing using these fun designs and caring tools can ease a patient’s anxiety when facing their fears of surgical tape. Another innovation is the 3D printing of food. Bizoon, for example, is a company that prints gourmet-looking food for older people who mainly eat purified foods. This technology could also be used in hospitals too.
5) Improved patient care through portable diagnostics
With innovations like palm-sized, portable, and user-friendly diagnostic devices hitting the market, caring for patients will be made even faster for nurses. These devices will allow for easier checking of a patient’s vital signs, more so than the oversized machines used for ECG, ultrasound, or lab testing, those will be a thing of the past. Researchers looking into these portable devices, like the ultrasonography, found that they can reduce occurrences like urinary catheterization and minimise a patient’s exposure to radiation. They will ultimately save time and speed up the diagnostic process.
Devices like Philips Lumify, SonoSite, or Clarius are all palm-sized versions of portable ultrasound technology. These products will allow nurses to move around patients in a faster manner. Also new to the market is the Butterfly IQ, an entire body imaging device!
6) Virtual reality alleviating pain and providing education
Surgery, rehabilitation medicine, medical education, psychology, and psychiatry are all fields that could benefit from virtual reality. Nursing could also reap the rewards of VR too. By helping to prepare nurses and aiding their training, virtual simulations could guide them through emergency situations, like a heart attack.
VR technology can also be used to train hospital’s employees on various procedures like IV insertion, wound care, nasogastric tube insertion, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation along with many others. They use a platform that allows nurses to train interactively with patients in hospital-like simulations, therefore enabling them to make vital decisions in real-time. Finally, VR will allow nurses to help alleviate patients’ chronic pain, and potentially manage it without using drugs.
7) Chatbots, small robots, or digital pills aiding better medication management
Bringing a bright future to healthcare are chatbots. These online bots help organise patients, assist with medication management, and help in emergency scenarios or first aid. They can offer solutions for more basic medical problems too. The chatbot is fast becoming a nurse’s best friend. An example of a chatbot in action is Florence: an electronic nurse dressed in blue, who can remind elderly patients to take their medication.
8) The smart alarms of the future
Clinical facilities and hospitals are surrounded by the familiar sound of constant alarms and beeps. A lot of them see nurses checking patient rooms all too regularly, and many of the signals turn out to be false alarms. Nurses are susceptible to “alarm fatigue,” the constant beeps and alarms take nurses away from their roles as caregivers. A solution is the adoption of smart alarm technology, providing more effective patient monitoring and allowing nurses to check vital signs through one unique system. Its development and launch may be some time away in the future, but many hope that nurses themselves will be consulted and have their voices heard, so the smart alarm is built to perfection.
Both nursing jobs and robots will stay
The nursing profession requires excellent communication and social skills, an extremely high level of empathy, and great emotional intelligence. All of these traits will not be held by AI or robots, so there is no chance that the field will be taken over any time soon. As the demand for nurses increases, however, there will be various tasks of the job that will be augmented by technologies, such as 3D printing, telemedicine, chatbots, and VR. There may be many fears that AI, robotics, and automation will take over healthcare jobs. However, there are strong statistics backing up that nursing is a constantly growing field. Demand for nurses going into the future will be even higher, and even more so as populations globally continue to age.