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The medical field has always been at the forefront of technological innovation. But the advent of telehealth has transformed nursing in unexpected and unprecedented ways. The transformations of telehealth are not only impacting patient care but they’re also helping to mitigate the nursing shortage. In this article, we discuss the top five ways that telehealth has transformed nursing as we know it.
1. Improving Relationships With Patients
One of the most significant ways that telehealth has transformed nursing is in its impact on nurse/patient relationships. Thanks to virtual clinics, patients can reach a healthcare provider anytime they need one and from almost anywhere they may be. For nurses, this means more frequent interactions with patients and an overall enhancement in the consistency and quality of care.
Best of all, through virtual visits, nurses are not only able to cultivate stronger relationships with patients who might otherwise have little or no access to a physical clinic, but nurses are also better able to assess the patients’ living environment. With such insights, nurses can offer teaching, coaching, and support specifically targeted to individual patients’ needs.
2. Softening the Nursing Shortage
The ongoing nursing shortage is a risk both to care providers and the patients they serve. Telehealth, however, is offering powerful solutions to help mitigate the nursing shortage. For example, telehealth can provide flexible work options for nurses who need or want to work from home, whether due to personal health issues, family obligations, or other factors. Nurses who work from home can cultivate a highly productive work life, for instance, by establishing a daily schedule that might include both virtual patient consultations and advanced professional training.
Research shows, in addition, that many nurses are leaving the profession due to the experience of a toxic work environment in a physical clinic or hospital. Nurses who work from home, however, can create the working environment they need to be successful, happy, and productive.
3. Enhancing Efficacy
Many nurses are furthering their education through online training. For example, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees can be obtained wholly online. A DNP allows degree holders to cultivate a challenging and lucrative career in nursing leadership. DNPs may work on-ground, remotely, or in a hybrid model and across a range of professional capacities, from teaching to research to management.
The result is that, as more nurse leaders complete their degrees online and transition from online study to online practice, the telehealth system is, inevitably, enhanced. In the symbiotic relationship that exists between nurses and telehealth, telehealth provides the platform for highly skilled nurses to practice, as well as the motivation for nurses to advance their education and skillset, and, in the process, these ever more qualified nurses increase the efficacy, efficiency, and accessibility of telehealth.
4. Reaching Underserved Communities
Not only is the nursing shortage a significant threat to patient care, so, too, are long-standing inequities in healthcare access. Telehealth, however, is showing tremendous promise in overcoming these disparities. For example, nurses who work remotely can access patients in isolated communities without clinics or hospitals nearby.
Through teleconferences, video calls, and even through remote health monitoring devices, nurses from anywhere in the world can access once-inaccessible patients. These transformative technologies enable nurses to remotely communicate with patients, track patients’ vitals, and even consult with the full healthcare team to plan and implement treatment strategies.
5. Going High-Tech
As shown above, telehealth involves much more than consulting with patients by telephone or video conference. Every day, new technologies are being developed which increases care providers’ ability to assess patients through remote monitoring. And that’s requiring nurses to become more technologically savvy than ever before. But not only do nurses need to know how to effectively incorporate these apps, devices, and related technologies into their patient care practices, but they also must be prepared to educate patients at a distance in how, why, and when to use them. And that means that now, more than ever, nurses are called upon to serve both as caregivers and technologists!