WASHINGTON – Nurses spend more time working with cumbersome and complicated equipment than they do with patients,according to a new study.
The study,”Technology Drill Down,” said that on average nurses in American hospitals spend only 30 percent of their time in patient care.
Linda Burnes,president of the American Academy of Nursing,said it is important not just to retain nurses but also to make it safer and easier for them to work.
“Reducing demand on nurses' time is important. It's not just about providing more nurses,but we have to support their good working environment.” Burnes said.
She was speaking at the National Press Club last month at a briefing on nursing technology and patient safety.
One of the hospitals that took part in the study was the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax,Va. The hospital was a part of the study because of its use of a combination of paper-based and computer-based record keeping. That combination makes it difficult for nurses to get records and attend to patients properly.
“Nurses need equipment that could be used even at the bedside for tracking movement of patients and medication and sending information to other members of staff,” said Renee Silver,a patient care director of orthopedics at the hospital.
Some hospitals have already incorporated new technology into their systems.
The George Washington University Hospital in Washington is one. The hospital moved into a new building five years ago,which is equipped with modern equipment. It has updated state-of-the art monitors,portable computers,a wireless system that operates only within hospital walls and bigger operating rooms.
Susan O'Connor,a senior director in the Department of Patient Care Services,said that the older facility had about four computers to be used among 12 nurses,while the new hospital has a computer for every nurse.
Another technological improvement was the introduction of the rolling vital signs monitors. These are movable monitors used to record and measure vital signs such as temperature,pulse and blood pressure.
O'Connor said that the nurses are happier at how fast they get their work done,and they are now able to spend more time at patients' bedsides.
“The nurses like the computerized documentation system that allows them to do charting closer to the patients,” O'Connor said.
The study was carried out between March and May by the American Academy of Nursing with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It involved 25 hospitals and health care systems.
As part of the study,approximately 20 patient care providers from Inova Fairfax Hospital met to discuss their problems and look for more efficient ways to care for patients.
The study also recommended that equipment purchased by hospitals be developed and tested by a caregiver. This would ensure the simplicity and compatibility of the equipment with the needs of both the patient and caregiver.
Silver said in an interview that if all the recommendations are put in place,nurses will be able to do what they love doing – taking care of patients.
The recommendations are still being tested and are yet to be adopted in hospitals around the country.