Emerging Technologies Could Change the Face of Nursing
The health care field is generally quick to adopt new technologies that can improve patient outcomes and safety. While the innovations that get the most attention tend to be new treatments and tools that overhaul patient care, more subtle developments can also help health practitioners deliver better care. From glucose-measuring tattoos to robotics, many new technologies can help streamline the patient experience and improve organizational efficiency, and nurses are often among the first to use these tools.
More than skin deep
Tattoos might not seem to have many applications in health care, but thanks to the work of Heather Clark, an associate professor of pharmaceutical services at Boston’s Northeastern University, they may be able to help diabetic patients. Clark’s tattoos consist of temporary injections of nanosensors that are applied to the upper layer of the skin and allow for closer monitoring of glucose levels. The ink in the tattoo reacts to blood glucose, changing color as levels rise and drop.
Clark told Northeastern’s news source that the same principle could be applied to monitoring other information, such as sodium levels. This advancement could help eliminate patient error when taking their own readings and enable nurses to more accurately monitor their patients’ conditions without invasive or time-consuming tests.
Injectable sensors are one of the most intriguing technological innovations to hit nursing recently, but they’re far from being the only one. A study published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (OJIN) in 2013 posited that robotics would become increasingly important to the health care field in the very near future.
Surgery patients may be among the largest beneficiaries of robotics. From synthetic joints and organs to more advanced treatments involving nanotechnology, there are many novel uses for implants and treatments based on robotics, and well-trained surgical nurses will be essential to ensure patients’ comfort and safety. Nurses will have an important role in familiarizing patients with these technologies, which may seem intimidating at first, as well as diagnosing problems and ordering tests to ensure their continued function.
Surgical nurses must also become well-acquainted with the more standard technology of the operating room, from patient monitors to surgical equipment. Nurses with a surgical background are prime candidates to become operating room directors or nurse anesthetists, who, according to Johnson and Johnson, are among the highest-paid professionals in the nursing field.
Preparing for the future
Nurse education also stands to benefit from robotics, according to the OJIN study. Students pursing MSN degrees in the future may find themselves working on advanced simulation robots that more accurately represent actual people and their health issues. Nurse educators will be among the vanguard of these and other robotics technologies, being the first to study their effectiveness and help prepare the next generation of nurses to make even better use of them.
Simulations aren’t just for the classroom, though. Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners may soon be welcoming robotics technology into their practice as well. OJIN reported that mental service robots are currently being developed that could help mental health nurses connect with otherwise reticent patients. One of the most popular, Paro, has been used in Japan and Europe since 2003, according to its manufacturers. This robot, designed to look like a baby seal is equipped with advanced sensors that allow it to respond to touch, light, sound, temperature and its own orientation. Robots like Paro have been found to reduce stress in patients and help get them more comfortable when interacting with their health care providers.
Health care technology will continue to evolve, which makes it all the more necessary for nursing professionals to stay abreast of the latest developments in their field. Advancing their education, such as through the pursuit of an MSN degree, could ensure that they are ready for the future of the nursing sector.