Nursing Qualifications – What Role Will Tech Play In The Future?
The future of technology is both exciting and uncertain, but how does it stand to affect nursing qualifications, and the healthcare sector in general?
Much discussion has been had about “transforming the NHS” with technology. As a result, there have been genuine concerns from healthcare professionals about what that means for the future of nursing and the qualifications required to practice. Many have called for the views of nurses to be listened to, rather than the NHS project becoming “just another IT project” as we navigate towards a tech-driven healthcare system.
NHS Digital and the “Every nurse an e-nurse” campaign
The future of nursing qualifications has been called into question following the national NHS campaign to encourage digital training for all nurses. This commitment is aligned with the Leading Change, Adding Value framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff. The framework was launched by Jane Cumming, chief nursing officer for England, in May 2016.
According to The Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN), the “Every nurse an e-nurse” campaign wants every UK nurse to be an e-nurse by 2020. The NHS will aim to implement technology at patient’s bedsides, as well as data sharing, digital security, apps, and wearables to track patients’ heath.
Possible pitfalls of digital training for e-nurses
Of course, the “Every nurse an e-nurse” campaign has stirred concerns surrounding nursing qualifications, with IT skills needed across the board for nurses to meet this deadline. One major barrier to the additional training needed is the out of date and inadequate IT systems that make up most hospitals and clinics. Nurses say these will need to be replaced and upgraded if the “Every nurse an e-nurse” campaign is to work.
One contributor added: “I hate to think how much nursing time is wasted each day waiting for computers to switch on, load emails, bring up blood results – that is, if you can find one that is free.”
Other barriers to the digitized future of nursing include lack of health informatics training in nursing degree courses, which could call into question the entire degree-based qualification process, as well as ongoing assessments and placements.
Already, there is a shortage of staff in the NHS, and although the “Every nurse an e-nurse” campaign hopes to help relieve that shortage, the training will undoubtedly slow down medical teams during the early days of implementation. This could increase patient wait times and put more crippling pressure on doctors and nurses, thus worsening the staff shortage.
Another concern is that qualities like bedside manner, empathy, and compassion will be slowly eliminated from the profession. Already, nurses must graduate with a degree in nursing, and now it seems they will also need IT skills if they want to continue to practice. This move could push nurses of older generations out of the workforce and diminish the importance of the patient-facing aspects of the role.
Are digital e-nurses simply a “pipe dream”?
Earlier this month, the e-health leader at the Royal College of Nursing warned that transforming the NHS with technology could be a “pipe-dream” if the views of nurses are not heard. The RCN recently published results of a consultation with nurses and midwives on their role in the digital transformation of healthcare.
One common concern to emerge from the consultation was the issue of IT programmes and systems being designed without input from nurses, with contributors citing they didn’t want the NHS to become “just another IT project.”
One contributor said: “[Decision-makers] often do not know the extent of our work and have never walked in our shoes, yet they make decisions on our behalf and bring in systems for us to use. They have no idea about workflows and how information is used.”
One solution to these concerns is the involvement of nurses and other medical practitioners in the design and implementation process.
Ross Scrivener, e-health leader at the RCN, added:
“The single most important theme to emerge from the consultation is that involving nurses in the design and implementation of programmes and systems to improve patient care is not an optional add-on – it is absolutely vital if those systems are going to provide the benefits they’re supposed to.
Anne Cooper, the chief nurse at NHS Digital, responded:
“The RCN is absolutely right to be placing such a priority on ensuring nurses across the NHS have the tools, skills and resources they need to make the best use of technology and act as effective e-nurses. We are pleased to endorse that campaign, and commit to working alongside them and other partners to play our role in delivering their ambition of making every nurse an e-nurse by 2020.”
Electronic training tools are already being used to aid nursing qualifications
Of course, the NHS has already implemented e-training tools in some areas, including an electronic training tool for all those involved in assessment and decision making around NHS Continuing Healthcare. The tool, which was fully endorsed by the Department of Health, was worked on by staff from the NHS, Adult Social Care and patient representative groups.
However, this tool was designed to be flexible so that health and social care staff can easily undertake continual nursing qualifications at a time and place that suits them. It was not designed to be used in the the middle of a shift in a clinic or hospital ward.
The future of a digital NHS
The goal of NHS digital seems clear: to utilise the benefits of technology to serve our national healthcare system. On the plus side, a fundamental shift in nursing qualifications and education will help to highlight the key role of nurses in this digital implementation, which is necessary to improve efficiency and outcomes within the NHS.
However, there needs to be a focus on nurses as decision makers in this process, as well as more practice educations and academic staff to help promote positive and productive ways of working with new applications. One possible solution would be for IT-focused healthcare consultancies to recruit nurses into the “Every nurse an e-nurse” campaign to provide genuine clinical insight.
NursCo is a healthcare recruitment agency with 100 years of combined experience in the field. At NursCo, we see how technology can shape the future by helping to recruit the right people and values into our healthcare system. For more information, visit the NursCo Lounge for healthcare career advice, or visit our employment page for the latest healthcare job vacancies in your area.