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Overcoming digital barriers in the nursing profession
Sue Clarke, Clinical Lead at NHS Digital, and registered nurse, says good communication is still at the heart of bringing about the digital transformation of the nursing profession.
11 January 2021
I’ve worked in acute medicine since qualifying as a nurse in 1996.
At the time, all nursing documentation was done on paper. We used whiteboards and clipboards to document our patient’s status and manage patient flow around the hospital.
It was incredibly time-consuming, walking around the wards making notes and compiling bed occupancy. Not having real-time data made making decisions difficult. Nor were we able to share that data with other health and care organisations to make the patient’s journey, and any delays, a shared responsibility. There was enormous potential for improvement.
In the acute trust I worked in, most people welcomed the change but for some less digitally-literate colleagues, there was resistance, fear even...."
Despite the evidential benefits, its sometimes a challenge getting everyone on board. If someone has always done something in a particular way, and it has always worked for them, it may take a little longer for them to appreciate the potential benefits of doing the task in a different way.
In the acute trust I worked in, most people welcomed the change but for some less digitally-literate colleagues there was some resistance, fear even, despite the benefits. Change is hard, and for the time-pressured nurse or midwife, it could be difficult to carve out enough time to learn a new system when they already had an embedded practice that worked for them.
Most patients, in my experience, welcomed the change. “Welcome to the 21st century” was a familiar phrase we heard when we asked for their feedback!
Visionary digital leaders need to drive the agenda.
Without digital leaders in senior positions there is a danger that digital strategies won’t truly address the requirements of digital transformation – it is about so much more than the technology, its also about the culture, processes, target operating models and opportunities for service improvement. Visionary digital leaders need to drive the agenda. Trust Boards need to support the digital transformation agenda, as difficult as that may be with competing priorities.
It goes without saying that there’s work still to do to have a truly digital NHS aligned to the NHS Long Term plan. That said, looking back at the International year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020, it’s really fantastic to reflect upon the progress that has been made, particularly at a time when we have faced our biggest health crisis in decades.
In 2020, nurses, midwives and other health care professionals have really embraced digital transformation with incredible resilience and determination. They’ve implemented changes that previously would have taken years, all for the benefit of their patients. There’s no turning back. Digital transformation is the only way to go.
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