These days, it seems like everything is going virtual-surgery training, currency, and even reality through devices such as the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR. Today, that list of virtual assets includes nurses, and the capabilities of those virtual nurses are evolving every day.
Before we go into the details of virtual nurses, we’ll start by saying that these aren’t-and probably never will be-replacements for floor nurses. Hospitals and clinics will always need someone who can work directly and physically with a patient. But those nurses can often get tied up with daily tasks and procedures, and that’s where virtual nurses are stepping in to help.
Take patient discharges, for example-an important but time-consuming task. One company (CHI Health) is currently testing what they call a “virtual integrated care team”, where one nurse can remotely handle patient discharge by calling in to the patient’s room using a video monitor and microphone. Not only is the nurse able to walk the patient through the discharge instructions, but if there are any final details that need shared-information on changing a wound dressing, dietary requirements, or other instructions-the nurse can handle these responsibilities as well.
Patient monitoring is also beginning to move into the virtual realm. Ocuvera, a medical software startup, is testing 3D cameras inside patients’ rooms to help predict and prevent falls. And if a patient starts to climb out of bed who shouldn’t be climbing out of bed, a virtual nurse can immediately call in and gently remind him or her to stay put.
While the programs are still in the test phases, the innovation is already seeing results. One hospital saw a 22 percent drop in patient falls after installing the service, and the patients themselves are responding positively.
“To me, it streamlined a lot of things,” patient Kyle Ainsworth told the Gwinnett Daily Post about the program. In the hospital for a stomach condition, Kyle was cared for by both floor nurses and a virtual nurse who “checked in with him several times a day” and walked him through his dietary restrictions and discharge paperwork.
As we mentioned before, the virtual nurse can never fully replace a nurse who’s physically present, but the two can benefit each other greatly. And while it may be a few more years before programs such as CHI Health and Ocuvera are hiring full-time virtual nurses, many positions are already out there for nurses who prefer to work remotely.
But one thing’s for certain-the world of computers and the world of nursing will continue to intertwine as technology continues to leap forward, and the nurses who stay up-to-date and educated in both fields will be the ones leading their industry.
For more information on how you can begin working towards a career in nursing, contact Unitek College here.