Anne Cooper: why making every nurse an e-nurse matters

NHS Digital’s chief nurse writes exclusively for Nursing Standard about the opportunities new technology presents to nursing.

NHS Digital’s chief nurse writes exclusively for Nursing Standard about the opportunities new technology presents to nursing

Technology has become an integral part of the way I live my life. Many of the services I need are now accessible digitally, and support for my type 1 diabetes is increasingly received via email.

Technology makes it easier to share information about patients. Picture: iStock

That’s why I’m pleased NHS Digital is today (21 August) endorsing the RCN’s ‘Making every nurse an e-nurse’ campaign and committing to playing a supporting role in making that ambition a reality.

Nurses and midwives will always need to give hands-on care, but digital technology and data are creating new opportunities to change the way we deliver care in almost every setting.

Embracing new technology is a help, not a barrier, to improving patient care. It is important that the professions respond positively to these opportunities, and that’s why being a modern nurse, in other words an e-nurse, matters.

Fast-paced world

Being an e-nurse means we have to develop new skills and capabilities to deal with the fast-paced digital world. For example, we need the skills to enable us to support people who want to communicate digitally and to help people access new digital resources that are safe and evidence-based, such as apps and wearable devices.

Technology and information can make nursing safer because we can share information about patients with other professionals also involved in their care. An e-nurse has to understand what good information governance looks like and how to share information safely.

Data can help reduce unwarranted variation. They allow us to identify where there are gaps – the health and well-being gap, the care and quality gap, and the funding and efficiency gap. Nursing, midwifery and care staff have a crucial role to play in this drive.

enurseHealth and care outcomes may vary for reasons over which we have no control. Unwarranted variations are those which we could change if we choose to. They can be a sign of poor quality care, missed opportunities and waste, and can result in poorer outcomes, poorer experience and increased expense. Data can help us to explore these opportunities.

Using technology can make us more efficient. Evidence is emerging that recording observations on electronic devices that raise alerts if there is a deterioration in the patient’s condition also helps to save time. It is also a much safer way to observe patients and helps to identify deterioration early.

Apps and wearables also help us to grasp opportunities to support people to stay fit, healthy and well – the All Our Health framework calls on practitioners to make sure we use our skills and relationships to maximise their impact on avoidable illness, health protection, and promotion of well-being and resilience. This could include encouraging people to use digital tools and devices.

Unlocking barriers

Finally, practitioners have a key role in ensuring that those who do not have access to digital resources are enabled to access them. This could be through helping them with information navigation and developing new skills.

An e-nurse can increase individuals’ motivation to develop those capabilities, and can support individuals to access and use digital tools and resources. They will take responsibility for unlocking some of the barriers to accessing technology in healthcare.

If we look outside of our professional work and how the digital agenda is affecting the rest of our lives, we can see that healthcare, too, cannot stand still. In recognition of this, Health Education England and the RCN have published a document that assesses the digital capabilities that e-nursing might demand in an increasingly digital world.

If we use this report as a framework and all work together, we can achieve the goal of making every nurse an e-nurse.

anneAnne Cooper is chief nurse at NHS Digital



Further information

This article is for subscribers only