A decade ago, venture capitalist, Marc Andreesen, said that “software is eating the world”. Since then, industry after industry has been disrupted by software. Healthcare is no different. With the emergence of digital technology, especially since the pandemic, digital nursing has become a crucial feature of modern healthcare service delivery. In addition, digital technology has been shown to reduce nurse turnover and burnout. Nurses have been essential to the success of telehealth, but they have also been important in taking the lead in shaping digital technology. Appointing nurses to leadership positions will be vital to sustaining the gains of digital technology use.
The Importance of Taking the Lead
Nurses often find themselves having to implement digital technologies and often, these digital technologies are not in keeping with the needs of patients or of nurses. By taking a leadership role in shaping digital technology and digital technology implementation, nurses can ensure that any digital technologies that are deployed align with their needs and the needs of patients.
Push for a CNIO and Greater Influence
There was more change in the first year of the pandemic than in the last decade. Digital nursing suddenly became a meaningful part of the work of the typical nurse, after being something which nurses did in rare instances, or for high net worth patients. Many healthcare facilities have understood the importance of nurses in implementing digital technology, and created the chief nursing information officer (CNIO) role. The CNIO role is something that should be adopted by as many healthcare organizations as possible. A CNIO would be involved in shaping the digital technologies that a healthcare organization uses. A CNIO understands the medical systems of the organization, the needs of nurses, and patients, and has an appetite for finding novel ways to implement digital technologies within medical systems. A CNIO should also be steeped in digital technology, with a master’s in nursing or clinical informatics. Organizations benefit because CNIOs ensure that spending isn’t wasted on digital technologies that are at odds with what nurses and patients need. Without a CNIO, there is a large risk of wastage.
For example, a CNIO could work with a supplier to get them to change the system in an operating room so that it reflects the processes that occur on a typical day there. In this way, the operating room could achieve greater health outcomes. Or, a CNIO could work for nurse injector training that reflects the practices of their organization, for instance. The CNIO is a reflection of a healthcare organization’s need to have nurses involved in acquiring and implementing digital technologies.
While nurses have been crucial to the implementation of digital technologies, many healthcare organizations have only used nurses in leadership roles on a temporary basis, with many nurses being downgraded or released from their roles, once the “emergency” phase of digital technology implementation passed. That is leading toward a scenario where healthcare organizations lose some of the important gains that were made during the pandemic. The pandemic has not seen a greater appreciation of the value of nurses in implementing digital technologies. Nurses have to push for better defined roles that have permanent tenures.