Nursing practice and digital information and communication devices: training implications and prospects
The spread and evolution of digitalisation in society and in health care is also reflected in the daily activities of nurses. This is particularly the case for the increasingly diverse range of technologies in this sector: a wide range of digital devices and connected computer systems are used to process and convey patient data. Increasingly omnipresent at all levels of social interaction and subject to continuous evolution and innovation, these instruments have found their way to various areas of nursing practice. They are used to retrieve or enter data into patient files, to communicate with colleagues or users, to collect images or to run applications that facilitate treatment or enable one to search for specific information. More generally, they are used to schedule treatment, to monitor and analyse patient status and maintain structured records of health care services provided.
Some of the benefits of using these technologies in the health care sector relate to the improvement of the quality of treatment and the contribution to patient-centred health care. At the same time, the various studies on the impact of digitalisation in health care indicate how the spread of these tools has redefined caregiving practices, generating both opportunities and risks. In this sense, the study of the influence of these technologies on nursing practice is particularly important. Nurses are the largest group of health professionals and it has become increasingly urgent to push for an updating of the content and methods used to train nurses (both initial and continuing education and training). At the same time, we must not lose sight of the transformations taking place in caregiving professions, under the continuous advance of digital innovation.
Similarly, aspects covered in studies in this area may also apply to other professional fields. Their analysis could thus contribute to reflection on the social and cultural changes brought on by digitalisation in the spheres of work and training.
Focussing on these issues, the preliminary study ‘Nursing practice and digital devices’ began in 2017. This study explores two main questions:
A. What are the implications of the presence of digital devices (DDs) for information and communication in daily nursing practice? In particular, we seek to:
Obtain some indications on how DDs have spread to different levels of daily nursing practice and what impact this has had on the professional development of nurses
Identify the ways in which DDs are used in daily caregiving activities, by specifying the resources that facilitate and the obstacles that hinder adoption of DDs.
Find out how nursing professionals feel about the spread of DDs and corresponding impact on their practices.
B. What are the investigative challenges and possible avenues of development for future research or intervention projects in this area? In particular, we seek to:
Identify one or more specific research themes, defining the scope and supporting questions that may be considered for one or more future studies.
This preliminary study was conducted using an ethnographic and semiological approach to observe nursing activities in two health institutions in the Canton of Ticino: the Ticino Cantonal Hospital in Bellinzona (Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale EOC) and the Municipal Public Outpatient Clinic in Lugano (Servizio Cure a Domicilio di interesse pubblico del Luganese SCuDo). Twelve days were spent observing nurses at four nursing wards (job shadowing) and twenty people (nurses, students, computer specialists) took part in semi-structured interviews. The full results of the study are currently being processed.