Is technology helping the nursing shortage?

19th November 2018
Lanna Cooper

Nursing is a very popular career path, and for good reason: the pay is good, it’s flexible, and it can be very fulfilling for those who like to help others. Because it’s so popular, the average American might not notice that the industry is facing an imminent nursing shortage in upcoming years as the population of the United States continues to age. 

Baby Boomers are now past retirement age, and people are living longer today than they once did, increasing the need for nurse. It’s estimated that by 2025, there will be a shortfall of about 260,000 nurses.

Although shortages are good news for nurses looking for jobs, they’re very bad news for patients. When there aren’t enough nurses on staff, patient care suffers and nurses work more overtime, making them prone to mistakes and burnout. Simply put, patient mortality rises and patient outcomes are more likely to be subpar when there is a nursing shortfall.

So what can be done about this problem? While encouraging more people to get into nursing is part of the solution, it won’t fix everything. Could technology lend a hand? Or is it just threatening nurses’ jobs and compromising patient care?

About nurses
Nurses have played a key role in healthcare for centuries. While their role has changed over the years with the development of new technologies, technology cannot replace all of the duties nurses are responsible for.

While doctors come in and out, diagnosing and treating patients, nurses monitor and observe patients, help them with tasks like going to the toilet and bathing, dispensing medications, and providing guidance and support at physicians’ directions.

Nurses have to be extremely adaptable to be able to provide the individualised care each patient need. They provide the human connection, and even have to provide customer service.

Types of nurses
Patients might not know how the nursing hierarchy works, but there are a number of different tiers of nurses that supervise one another and provide different levels of care to patients. These different nursing titles require specific education and training, and can be a bit confusing for people who want to enter the field.

While it’s not necessary to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to become an RN (an Associate’s degree will generally suffice), it is one of the paths that can allow students to become an RN.

BSN degrees help nurses grow their career more easily than simply becoming an RN and can make it easier to pursue leadership options. Nurse practitioners, who carry out many of a doctor’s duties, and nurse supervisors need additional training and degrees.

Is technology helping or hurting nurses?
With everything that goes into the nursing profession, it’s worthwhile to ask if technology is actually helping or hurting the nursing industry. Will it take away jobs, or simply help overworked nurses care for their patients more efficiently?

Currently, it’s looking like technology is being created to help, not replace nurses. Wearables are making it easier for nurses to remotely monitor patients while performing other duties, electronic health records have cut down on paperwork, and telehealth services with remote nursing are keeping patients out of the hospital, reducing the time-consuming duties of full time care.

Technology can’t replace the human connection, at least for now, so most nurses are welcoming these new tools they have to work with.

Evolution of the nursing career and individuals’ specialties
In the end, the field is always evolving and technology is poised to help reduce errors and take over dull, repetitive, and dangerous or dirty work that nurses currently must do as part of their day-to-day duties.

Still, nurses should always consider broadening their skills and may even want to consider choosing a specialty or switching to a new specialty to find more career success or job satisfaction.

It’s not yet clear where the nursing industry will go in the long run, but it’s been a crucial sector of the healthcare industry since society first began. It will always be needed in some shape or form, and the nurses who will do the best will be those who know how important it is to keep up with new trends and be willing to learn new technology.


Arizona State University Online

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Maryville Online

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