Nurses As A Bridge Between Technology And Patients

‘We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it would be more like 2000 years of progress (at today’s rate)’. This was written by Kurzweil in 2001 and as time goes by, the world has eventually proved his accuracy. His words can actually be applied to almost every aspect of our society, especially in medical science. As the technology being introduced into hospitals, it has increased nursing efficiency to a higher level, since more accurate data and information can be generated with less labor force required. It seems to be a good thing, yet people have eventually found the problems within. With such ubiquitous technology, would it start to, or already have inserted itself between people? Will it bring any forms of detrimental problems, or whether it would pose as any forms of threats towards mankind itself?

However, before criticizing how technology could bring unwanted effects upon society and humankind, it is undeniably true for us to admit that how technology in medical science has helped us to improve towards a better life. When technology steps into the nursing area, the public are amazed by its accuracy and flawlessness. As compared to the traditional ways of nursing, machines have a relatively much higher rate of detecting illness and abnormal behavior, regardless it is shown or potential. This makes the machine a more reliable source in terms of caring and dealing with illness. According to Sadwlowski, ‘For decades nurse have used various forms of technology to augment provision of care to individuals, ranging from simple technology, such as the stethoscope, to more advanced types of technology, such as intravenous pumps, cardiac monitors, and ventilators.’ With the development of the medical equipment in hospitals, nurses would have a better understanding about patient’s states since machines could provide nurses with 24/7 monitor on patients, as long as the machines are functioning normally. As time goes by, technology has also improved itself to suit more complex situations. Moreover, with the growth of the technology, nurses are provided with an environment where they are able to treat their patients from a distance. The invention of telehealth technology is a good example. Such technology would help nurses to perform a long-distance checking and examination on patients. It would be much more convenient for both the patients and nurses since the time and labor force could be saved. As Eila-Sisko Korhonen, Tina Nordman and Katie Eriksson written in the article, “Technology and its ethic in nursing and caring journals: An integrative literature review”, ‘In general, the studies adopted a positive standpoint regarding different technologies and their potential benefits to care. Only few of the articles criticized technology and its use’.

Therefore, it is vital for us to concede the importance and the usefulness of technology in medical science before coming into the discussion about the negative part of these advanced technologies. It seems that technology could bring lots of benefits to both the patients and the nurses in the long run, its profound impacts on society could help us to establish a steady nursing environment. However, does that mean that what I mentioned above is so comprehensive that we can make the conclusion right away? I am afraid not.

In “Technologically-Mediated Nursing Care: The Impact On Moral Agency”, Sheila O’Keefe McCarthy suggested, ‘Technology inserts itself between patients and nurses, thus distancing nurses form patients.’ This is a vivid description of how technology has become one indispensable part in terms of nursing. On the one hand, we desire technology to be participated in the nursing area due to its accuracy and continues monitoring. With the technology, nurses are able to take care of the patients in a more detailed and specific way while the patients would be able to receive customized treatments. On the other hand, technology has actually made patients become more isolated, not only physically, but also mentally. According to McCarthy, people determine whether a man is alive or dead, based on the ‘technological medication of their heart bear on the monitor screen.’

Thus, even though it is said that patients are being taken care of by the nurses, they are actually accompanied by a bunch of wires and lifeless screens while their lives are being measured numerically and graphically. Let’s take telehealth as an example. Telehealth is a rather new technology that only has 60 years of history. Despite the fact that its history of development is relatively short as compared to other forms of nursing methods, telehealth allows nurses to get in contact with the patients at almost everywhere, as long as the equipment can be functioned normally. In the past, telehealth was known by people as consulting over the phone. However, this form of technology has evolved to a brand-new level, as nurses are able to get to know patients via using various forms of communication, such as computers, audio, or visual accessories. Undeniably true, telehealth has achieved significant outcomes in terms of nursing. Nonetheless, when telehealth has created such a convenient environment, detrimental problems follows behind. The idea of telehealth ensures nurses can work wherever they want, as long as there is suitable equipment to work on. However, such a creative idea failed to recognize that during nursing, it is important for one to be felt caring. The traditional way of nursing demonstrates how nurses should perform when taking care of others – the importance of physical contact – such as comforting people by words or touching. However, this is something that telehealth cannot provide with. In order to save time on the road, telehealth sacrifices most of the physical contact when conducting nursing.

According to Barnard and Sandelowski, ‘Although telehealth technologies facilitate enhanced access to health care and can bridge service delivery gaps for some populations, it creates a physical distance between the nurse and the person receiving care’. When a nurse is taking care of a patient in a traditional way, they would have face-to-face interaction, this would help to form a bond between the nurse and the patient. This relationship could be further enhanced during the treatment, the nurse would form a better understanding of the needs of the patient. However, the use of telehealth has erased this possibility since the nurse is actually seeing the patient through a cold screen. The nurse can only check one’s states by reading the numbers and graphs from the lifeless screens.

When I was reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s article “My Father’s Body, At Rest and In Motion”, there is one paragraph of descriptions of how nurse shows indifference towards Mukherjee’s father when he is in his very critical situation. As written in the article, when Mukherjee found that the machine has doubled his father’s pulse to alarmingly high rate, the nurse came and behaved as it was nothing, as the author described with:’ she said, waving it away casually, as if it were a toy with a snagging wheel’. And then, the nurse, without checking Mukherjee’s father’s pulse, simply just switched the machine off. It seems to be weird to put such text here since the nurse mentioned above did not depend on the machine, instead, she had her own judgment towards the machine and the patient. Am I being self-contradictory?

No, and actually, this is a perfect example of how technology has separated patients from nurses. Since the machine is always – maybe not ‘always’, but ‘most of the time’ in this content – so reliable in terms of nursing, some nurses have relied on too much on the technology to tell whether the patient is doing well or not. Thus, when the machine is not functioning normally, some nurses lack basic morality and skills as being called a nurse, such as regular checking of patients’ states and physical contact for comforting patients. In the article, the nurse switched the machine off without checking Mukherjee’s father’s body, and simply moved to the next bed ‘triumphantly’. This kind of vivid description made me feel scared and thrilled while considering how this kind of, or similar situations can actually be seen and felt around us, with the growth of technology. In nowadays society, some nurses feel satisfaction not by helping or caring patients, but by fixing the machine that is taking care of the patient. In their views, as long as the machine is working, they would have the access to check my patients’ body’s situation. And when the machine is not working, the first thing to do is to unplug the machine and make everything looks fine, until the machine is fixed. However, they failed to recognize that the real reason why technological nursing is being invented is to provide patients with better caring and health service. What Korhonen wrote at the end his article concluded the relationship perfectly, ‘Nurses act as interpreters between patients and technology.

Finally, technology as a service means producing care by using technology and its applications in the act of caring.’ In my view, nurses should act as a bridge between technology and patients. Instead of following machines’ instructions blindly, nurses should use technology as an assistant to provide better services for the patients.

03 December 2019
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