Nurse Keith: Technology and 21st Century Nurse Leadership

Technology is changing at an exponential pace, and healthcare and nursing are not immune from such growth. We’ve seen amazing technological innovation in myriad industries since the public launch of the Internet and the World Wide Web during the 1990s, and there’s no slowing down in sight for the remainder of the 21st century.

Nurses must remain on the forefront of this technological renaissance, and we will need savvy nurse leaders ready to rise to the challenge.

Healthcare tech on the rise

Most nurses who work in a clinical environment now document on various types of EMRs, which have essentially revolutionized the documentation of medical and nursing care. While some nurses, doctors, and others have kicked and screamed along the way, there is no turning back from the digitization of patient care and medical records.

With the persistent advent of robotics and artificial intelligence within our technologically-oriented world, predictions are being made about which jobs will be automated in the near future and which will continue to be performed by humans.

While we would naturally hope that actual patient contact and therapeutic conversation would remain within the purview of the bedside nurse, many nurses would likely be thrilled when bedside hydraulically-enabled robots are able to safely handle all patient transfers. Imagine the decrease in work-related musculoskeletal injuries that would result!

Remote monitoring, video-based medical assessments, telehealth, wireless bedside handheld devices, and the increased use of apps are now widely accepted and utilized, and it’s only a matter of time before virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) become ubiquitous tools in healthcare.

So where does a nurse leader fit in the face of such technological innovation and change?

Nursing informatics leadership

Some members of the nursing profession have chosen to make information technology and informatics the center of their chosen career path.

Certain nurses have learned tech skills on the job, participating in the rollout of new technologies and becoming super-users in the interest of supporting their colleagues in the adoption of these innovative systems.

Meanwhile, other nurses have pursued certification or training in specific programs or processes, or earned degrees in nursing informatics. Nursing leaders who wish to remain on the cutting edge of nurse leadership may want to consider informatics as a means to remaining relevant and nimble in a changing world.

Nurse informaticists taking charge

The nursing leader schooled in the management of information systems will stay abreast of the evolution of these technologies, assess the potential for new systems to be adopted in their particular setting, and champion their introduction and implementation by inspiring and educating staff nurses and managers to adopt these technologies for the good of the whole.

When we consider information systems in the medical space, this can include hardware, software, data management, cloud computing, AI, so-called “big data”, and many other aspects of healthcare informatics.

Nurses with either an MSN or DNP in nursing informatics can serve as the liaison or conduit between the executive, information systems, medical, and nursing teams, while also acting as a consultant to the executive team on salient technological issues.

Nurse leaders remaining relevant

There will always be the need for charge nurses and nurse managers to oversee the day-to-day operations of staff nurses and hospital and non-hospital environments. However, the need for nurses willing to tackle the biggest technological issues of the 21st century is going to grow enormously for the foreseeable future.

For those nurses willing to dive deeply into the worlds of technology, informatics, data, systems, apps, cloud computing, and even robotics, AI, and virtual reality, the previously cutting-edge is now mainstream, and the cutting edge of tomorrow is on its way.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, consultant, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at NurseKeith.com.

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