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Mobility in Nursing: An Ongoing Evolution

July 24, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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Why providers are investing strategically in nursing-friendly mobile solutions

At specialty hospitals, like the 93-bed Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation facility in Englewood, Colo., mobile solutions are being used to help nurses as well. At Craig, the mobile investments are for telemetry solutions and RFID barcode scanning for medication administration. Craig uses an app from Patient Safe Solutions (San Diego) for the barcode scanning on what Diane Reinhard, R.N., vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Craig, calls an “iPad-like platform.” The telemetry sits on a separate Cisco phone.

These days, mobile technology is even being emphasized during a nurse’s training. It is a huge part of the curriculum for students at the Weston, Mass.-based Regis College School of Nursing, which mandates that every incoming student adopt an iPhone.  The trainees at Regis use mobile software as reference tools at the point of care and as a way to interface with EMR systems.

“We realized we had to prepare for the nurse of the future, while keeping the nurse of the present in mind as well,” says Nancy Bittner, Ph.D., R.N., associate dean of Regis. “Because we’re in the Boston area, we use all the major [medical] centers and stay on top of what they are requiring for their nurses.”


Industry experts say the best is yet to come. Many, like Patricia Hinton Walker, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, PCC, vice president for nursing policy and professor of nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md., who have seen the nursing and the mobile health IT evolution first-hand, consider the present time to be the perfect intersection of opportunity for nursing, mobility, and patient/consumer health.

Patricia Hinton Walker, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, PCC

Thanks to the developments in real-time evidence-based change technology through mobile applications, nurses are in a greater position   to empower and engage patients, she says.

Walker is one of the leaders of the Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) Initiative Foundation, which primarily enables nurses (and also inter-professional colleagues) to use informatics and emerging technologies. She says a collaborative of national nursing organizations is working to create a document that identifies the competencies and type of education that a nurse coach would have.

“The point I would make about the connection of mobile technology for improving patients’ and consumers’ health to this emerging role of nurses as coaches is you can’t just dub a well-meaning nurse or other provider a coach,” Walker says. “There are particular approaches, skills, and strategies, used in coaching that are different than what we’ve historically been taught and practiced as healthcare professionals. Rather than educate and advise, the coaching model has you getting the patient or consumer to be clear about why they want to make a behavioral change and how the data that are available through mobile health technologies are linked to the need for and progress of behavior change.”

Bittner similarly sees mobility being used by nurses for evidence-based practice at the bedside. Both she and Walker point to the changing healthcare environment, and the emerging requirements to maneuver through an EMR and interface with other information systems from provider to provider, as proof that this transformation is inevitable.

“They have to have this level of technology comfort, or they won’t be able to perform in this practice environment,” says Bittner, adding why nursing in particular is so critical to this progression. “[As nurses] we spend the most time at the bedside. So we need access to that information. We’re the ones who are providing that information to other providers, to other members of the team. We’re the managers of their care, and we’re inputting that data and making sense of it. That’s what nursing education is focused on, not just using technology for the sake of technology.” ◆


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