Health care facilities across the country are struggling to manage staffing shortages, which are putting an enormous strain on health care workers and in some cases leading to reduced efficiency, higher levels of stress and burnout, and a lower quality of care for patients. According to a 2021 survey of nurses by the American Nurses Foundation, 41% of respondents stated they intended to leave their position within six months due to burnout from understaffing, indicating that this issue may only worsen if it isn’t addressed.
While many factors contribute to staffing shortages, new technologies can help reduce the strain they create and improve health care workers’ efficiency by relieving some of the burdens they currently face. New nursing technology has the potential to revolutionize the health care industry, with innovations such as 3D printing of surgical implants and anatomical models offering many benefits to patients and providers. However, the industry has been slow to adopt some of these new tools.
Gaining a deeper understanding of what these technologies can do as well as their current limitations can be invaluable to nurses seeking to leverage them in patient care. Those looking to master the latest trends in nursing technology and reduce the strain on health care workers should consider pursuing an advanced nursing degree to help them achieve their career goals.
The Benefits of New Technology in Nursing
The nursing profession is continuously changing and technology is becoming increasingly vital in health care delivery, contributing to lower costs and greater efficiency. One example of new technology in nursing is health information technology, which is software that helps manage patient records and allows providers to access information more easily and quickly, resulting in better response times for patients in acute care scenarios.
Cost reduction is one of the major benefits of leveraging technology in nursing. For example, electronic health records can enhance efficiency and eliminate errors in patient treatment, resulting in significant savings for health care providers. Telehealth can also save patients and providers money by limiting in-person visits.
In addition to financial savings, technological advancements in nursing can save lives. One example is the development of intelligent IV pumps, which employ powerful algorithms to calculate and administer accurate medication doses, reducing the risk of errors. Other examples include mobile apps that assist patients in managing chronic diseases, and wearable devices that monitor patients’ vital signs and alert health care practitioners to potential health risks.
To realize the benefits of this technology, nursing professionals must stay current on the latest trends and understand how to incorporate them into their practice. While telehealth can be an effective tool for providing care remotely to patients, it may only be appropriate for some medical issues, and patients unfamiliar with the technology may require additional training and assistance.
Several other technological trends have recently emerged in health care, holding the potential to transform nursing.
AI and Machine Learning in Health Care
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have altered standard approaches to health care, with providers employing the technology to enhance patient outcomes and cut expenses. AI is an aspect of computer science that seeks to mimic human intelligence, performing learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making activities.
Machine learning is a subfield of AI focused on developing algorithms trained on data to enable computer systems to improve the accuracy of their outputs.
Benefits of AI and Machine Learning
Accurate predictions are one of the most notable applications of AI and machine learning in health care. With the right training, AI can examine patient data and predict outcomes such as the efficacy of various treatments, the likelihood of hospital readmissions, and the optimal staffing levels for patients with various illnesses. AI and machine learning can enhance patient care and save costs by delivering real-time information and insights to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
Automation is another key application of this technology. Health care personnel can focus on patient care by using AI and machine learning to automate repetitive tasks such as data entry and scheduling.
Automation can also minimize errors and boost efficiency, improving patient outcomes and saving money.
Challenges for AI and Machine Learning
Despite the numerous advantages of AI and machine learning in health care, there are drawbacks to this technology, notably concerning the provision of unbiased care. One of the most serious issues is the possibility of racial bias in algorithmically generated treatments. According to a 2019 study in Science magazine, a widely used clinical algorithm harbored racial bias, assigning the same level of risk to Black and white patients, despite the Black patients exhibiting more severe symptoms.
According to the study, programmers had trained the algorithm using historical data on health care costs, which unintentionally equated Black individuals’ substantially lower spending on health care with lower risks of illness, disregarding the role of unequal access to care. While programmers eventually corrected the racial prejudice in this algorithm, health care professionals are concerned about how other AI applications may unintentionally incorporate biases based on race, sex, or other factors.
Because these algorithms are only as accurate as the data used to train them, there is a risk they will exacerbate existing inequalities in the health care system. This potential for bias emphasizes the significance of diversity and inclusivity in designing and deploying these technologies.
Virtual Reality in Nursing Education
Virtual reality (VR) is a notable example of how technology can improve nursing education. VR immerses users in a computer-generated simulated environment, typically via a special headset. Nursing students can use VR to participate in simulated medical events, allowing them to hone important clinical skills in a risk-free environment.
Benefits of Virtual Reality
One benefit of using virtual reality in nursing education is its capacity to provide students with a realistic and engaging learning experience. Nursing students can learn how to provide high-quality patient care using virtual models of real-world medical circumstances without needing to have direct supervision from an experienced nurse on-site. For example, they can practice assessing and monitoring vital signs, delivering medication, and communicating with patients and their families.
Another advantage of VR is its accessibility and adaptability. As remote learning becomes more prevalent, VR can provide nursing students with a dynamic learning experience that doesn’t require them to travel to a facility, reducing barriers for students who aren’t able to travel easily. As the simulations can create any number of scenarios, they can also adapt to individual students’ needs.
Challenges of Virtual Reality
Despite its advantages, VR is not a perfect substitute for in-person nursing education and practice. The lack of face-to-face communication between patients and providers is one of the most challenging issues. While VR can imitate real-world medical conditions, it cannot replace human involvement in health care, and this lack of direct patient interactions can potentially affect nurses’ ability to express sensitivity or empathy. To combat this, nurses need to hone soft skills in interpersonal communication.
Another challenge surrounding VR in nursing education is the high installation costs associated with the technology. As the technology improves and prices go down, health care facilities should seek additional funding and assistance to guarantee that nursing students have access to the latest VR technology.
The Role of a Nurse Robot
Nurse robots, also known as medical robots, are a new form of nursing technology that can transform the health care industry, supporting staff by performing monotonous or laborious tasks. These robots typically come equipped with advanced sensors, cameras, and communication tools to interact meaningfully with patients and medical staff. Health care organizations can use them in various settings, including hospitals and nursing homes.
Benefits of Nurse Robots
The potential of robots to supplement human health care providers’ more simple or monotonous duties is one of its primary advantages. These robots can help check vital signs, deliver medication, and monitor patients, giving staff more time to focus on more complex responsibilities. By helping to reduce the workload of medical staff, nurse robots can help improve job satisfaction and lower the risk of burnout.
Nurse robots can be especially beneficial to older patients by minimizing their loneliness and inactivity. More than a third of U.S. adults aged 45 and older experience loneliness, and social isolation affects almost one-fourth of those aged 65 and older, according to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report. Reducing loneliness and social isolation is a significant health care concern, as the study also found these factors significantly increased the odds of premature death and the risk of dementia by 50%.
Given the ways in which isolation can damage patients’ health — particularly that of older patients in nursing homes or those who need long-term hospital care — the potential of nurse robots to provide companionship is significant. By keeping patients company and engaging them in activities such as games and exercise, robots can help mitigate patients’ loneliness as well as reduce the stress that nurses may feel as a result of understaffing.
Challenges for Nurse Robots
Despite the numerous advantages of nurse robots, there is room for improvement in their implementation. One of the most significant difficulties is their mobility in crowded areas. Robots may struggle to navigate packed hospital corridors or hectic emergency rooms. Furthermore, they may be unable to respond rapidly to sudden changes in patient circumstances, thus delaying care.
Despite the benefits robots can offer by providing companionship and carrying out simple but time-consuming duties, they face some challenges in widespread adoption. According to research in Frontiers in Digital Health, many health care workers were skeptical that robots would be welcomed by older patients, who may be unfamiliar with the technology, as well as concerns over training staff on how to operate the machines.
3D Printing in Health Care
In 3D printing, a specialized machine creates a digital model of an object, slices it into thin layers, and then prints each layer, one on top of the other, until the physical object is complete. In a medical context, an imaging procedure such as a CT or MRI scan can create the digital model, which is then sent to the printer for manufacturing. This allows for a number of complex products to be created on-site, saving time and money.
Benefits of 3D Printing
Many applications have been found for 3D printing in health care. For example, it can create custom prosthetic limbs or orthotics tailored to an individual’s unique anatomy. By custom-fitting a prosthetic in this way, health care workers can improve the comfort and functionality of the device, leading to better patient outcomes.
3D printing can also create anatomical models for surgical planning and education. Surgeons can use these models to plan complex surgeries, reducing the risk of complications during the procedure. Medical students can also use 3D-printed anatomical models to learn about human anatomy and practice surgical procedures before working on live patients.
3D printing can create implants as well, such as dental implants or hip replacements. These implants can be customized to fit the patient’s unique anatomy, improving their comfort and longevity.
Furthermore, 3D printing has enormous potential in the construction of functional organs. Scientists are actively working on 3D printing functional organs like hearts, kidneys, and livers that might be transplanted into patients whose organs are failing. Although this technology is still in its early stages, the possibilities it offers are groundbreaking and have the potential to help alleviate the lack of organs available for transplant.
Additional advantages of 3D printing in health care include its ability to cut equipment costs and production time. Conventional medical device and equipment manufacturing can be time-consuming and costly, while 3D printing has the potential to be comparatively more efficient.
Challenges of 3D Printing
While 3D printing has the potential to transform medical care, it faces challenges that currently prevent its widespread adoption in the health care industry. One difficulty is the slow speed of 3D-printing technology, which makes large-scale production problematic. While 3D printers can produce many medical machine components faster than the time it takes for a traditional repair, the costs of materials and equipment and the necessary training to use the machine are often considered more trouble than they are worth.
Furthermore, materials like specialist antimicrobial resin for dental implants can be excessively expensive or impossible to print with the required precision. For example, the technologies for printing organic replications, such as the microscopic nozzles necessary to create blood vessels in 3D-printed skin, are still emerging, with bioprinters therefore limited in their overall capabilities.
Transform Your Nursing Career
The latest advancements in nursing technology hold the potential to transform the health care industry and reduce the overall strain on medical staff, while improving patient care and operational efficiency. These technologies, from AI and machine learning to VR and nurse robots, offer countless benefits to patients and providers. Nurses who stay informed and embrace these developments can help lead the way toward a brighter future in health care.
If you’re a nursing professional who wants to stay ahead of the latest trends in nursing technology, consider pursuing an advanced degree such as Regis College’s online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice. The program provides nurses with the tools necessary to take on health care leadership roles, including coursework on technology integration and implementation.
With three start times per year and 100% online coursework, the program allows students to balance their professional and personal responsibilities while pursuing their career goals. Additionally, the program has six nurse practitioner tracks, which means students have the opportunity to choose the specialization that suits their career aspirations.
Discover how Regis College can help you advance your nursing career and stay on top of the evolving world of nursing technology.