While technology is advancing rapidly in most industries, technology improvements in the health care field can have life or death implications. Many of these advancements’ benefits are clear, such as improved patient outcomes, reduced overall costs and decreased hospital re-admission rates. However, patients are not the only people who are assisted by improvements in health IT. These tech resources can do a lot to improve the workplace environment and daily responsibilities of the nurses who work in the field, as well.
As demand for qualified nursing professionals increases across the U.S., retaining staff members by creating a positive work environment is critical for health care facilities. With proper implementation and training measures, health IT is one strategy that can improve nursing staff satisfaction rates.
Nurses and technology
The current demand for nurses is extremely high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for nursing professionals are expected to increase by 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, a much faster than average rate across industries. Based on numbers reported by the bureau, that growth can lead to the addition of more than 400,000 jobs nationwide. Many of the new nurses that hospitals and other health care facilities are hiring already are accustomed to working with technology in every other area of their lives. In fact, they may have never worked or studied somewhere that did not require the use of computer and smartphone technology to complete regular tasks.
Many nurses — the younger generation in particular — will find it frustrating if they can cash a check, order a pizza and schedule a haircut all from the convenience of their phone, but they have to enter patient information in a paper chart by hand. A 2013 study by AMN Healthcare confirmed that younger nurses are more likely to agree that electronic medical records (EMRs) improve their job satisfaction. The organization found that 67 percent of nurses between the ages of 19 and 39 reported that they agreed or strongly agreed that this technology increased their job satisfaction, as opposed to 51 percent of nurses in the 40-to-54 age group and 45 percent of nurses age 55 and older. As nurses retire and the new generation steps in, the number of nurses who believe their workplace satisfaction is increased by health IT such as EMRs is likely to continue to grow.
Whatever the age of a nursing staff or its comfort level with modern technology, efficiency is likely something that any employee can agree is a positive thing. If a health care center wants to improve nursing staff satisfaction, one of the first things that should be examined is how nurses’ jobs can be made more efficient. This area is one in which health IT can play a significant role. When technology is implemented properly in health care, it can do a great amount to cut unnecessary tasks and shorten time on task, giving nurses more time to dedicate to direct patient care and other important responsibilities that will improve the performance of the health care organization.
Nurses are charged with many important responsibilities in patient care that require fast and effective decision-making. One way to empower decision-making on the job is to ensure that nursing staff have access to the tools that will help them to perform their jobs well. Health IT can give nurses tools that will increase their efficiency and abilities in the workplace.
Nurses also will feel more empowered in their roles — and consequently more satisfied in the workplace — if they have access to tools that will supplement their own knowledge and abilities. For example, mobile apps are increasingly being used to aid in decision-making in health care. In a 2015 study by the Columbia University Medical Center, smartphones and tablets were used by nurses when diagnosing patients with chronic health conditions, such depression, obesity and smoking. In the study, a mobile app guided nurses through diagnoses and supported their ability to identify these health conditions in patients. The mobile app, designed around evidence-based criteria, provided cues to assist nurses in speaking with the patient, such as reminding nurses to ask about chewing tobacco in addition to smoking habits.
Through empowerment, increased efficiency and modernized processes, health IT can improve the workplace experience for nurses, increasing their satisfaction levels and allowing them to focus on what they do best: caring for patients.
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