A nurse's take on how digital technology has transformed patient care during her career

Summary

By Jane Smith, 26 July 2018

A patient's finger being hooked up to a monitor in a hospital bed

When I first left home in 1985 to start my nurse training I loaded my stuff into my trusty old Renault and set off north to move to the nursing home never questioning that the aa road map, Northampton A-Z and a reasonable sense of direction would get me to my destination. On arriving I had to locate the payphone and my bag of 2p pieces to call home and let my parents know I was there and safe. That payphone (and essential bag of 2p pieces ) was my only means of contact with home for the next few years and if anyone actually wanted to contact me they had to ring said payphone and hope a kindly passer-by would answer it and then actually come and find me…

How things have changed over 33 years

My kids now get into their cars and pick between a variety of navigation devices and apps, both built in and on their phones, which not only tell them exactly where to go but how long it will take them and the traffic problems they may want to avoid en-route.  On arrival they can let me know they are home and safe using a multitude of channels, and we can remain in easy contact through calls and text and their wide variety of social media channels allow me frequent insights into their lives that are able (usually) to provide the necessary reassurance to an anxious mum that they are still alive.

I suppose it is no surprise that the health care system I joined 33 years ago also looks very different now and it made me think how technology has contributed to those changes;

As a Nurse I now record on an electronic record that is used in real time by all the healthcare professionals involved in a person’s care enabling me to give safer more effective care to my patients. I am surrounded by equipment and devices that use the latest technology to support me to give the best evidence based care to people I am supporting across a multitude of health pathways. Working in my speciality of learning disabilities I now have access to technology-based equipment to support communication and provide sensory experiences that I could not have imagined in my early nursing days when I would cut pictures out of catalogues to create communication boards.

As a Patient I can now book my appointments online and order my repeat prescriptions.  I can find out about services and get medical help near me when I need it using 111 online. Friends and family are able to have greater independence as technology has provided them with aids and devices, whether it is a complex monitoring device for a long term condition such as diabetes or simple sensor pads on a bed to alert that an elderly relative with dementia is getting up, we are now able to manage our own health in new and innovative ways that allow us to live better with the health conditions we have.

As a citizen I can now take more control over my own health and wellbeing, I can monitor my activity levels using technology built into my phone, my watch keeps track of my heart rate and I have access to a multitude of apps that are designed to educate motivate and support me to manage both my physical and mental wellbeing. I can now communicate easily with people across the world, professionally and socially, individually and in groups, verbally and visually. 

Its certainly come a long way since I sat in that payphone booth with my bag of 2p coins letting my mum know I had arrived to start my nursing training, being a nurse in the digital age is exciting and creates so many opportunities to provide  care in new and innovative ways, these have enabled me to see patients achieve good health outcomes and to live fuller and more independent lives while managing their long term conditions or disabilities.

The journey is really only just beginning so who knows where it will take us next, but I feel sure that embracing these digital opportunities will enable us all to provide and receive the best healthcare in the future.