Patient care technology has become increasingly complex; transforming the way nursing care is conceptualized and delivered. Before extensive application of technology, nurses relied heavily on their senses of sight, touch, smell, and hearing to monitor patient status and to detect changes. Over time, the nurses’ unaided senses were replaced with technology designed to detect physical changes in patient conditions.Consider the case of pulse oxymetry. Now pulse oxymetry allows nurses to identify decreased oxygenation before clinical symptoms appear, and thus more promptly diagnose and treat underlying causes.
While technology has the potential to improve care, it is not without risks. Technology has been described as both part of the problem and part of the solution for safer health care, and some observers warned of the introduction of yet-to-be errors after the adoption of new technologies.
Technologies used by nurses offer the means for preventing errors and adverse events (e.g., medication errors, miscommunications, delays in treatment, and adverse events—such as failure to rescue, nosocomial infections, pressure ulcers, falls, and complications of immobility). Yet technology also introduces unintended side effects and opportunities for failures.
Organizational factors that influence the use of technology include policies, resources, culture, social norms, management commitment, training programs, and employee empowerment. It has been noted that the effects of implementing technology—for example, information technology—can vary widely depending on the setting, presumably due to differences in the social-organizational environment such as workflow, work tasks and processes,
Sandelowski noted the complex and often troubled relationship between technology and nursing since the establishment of nursing as a profession in the latter part of the 19th century. Nurses have been both users of technology and facilitators for gaining patient acceptance of technology, but it has sometimes been a struggle for nurses to define the role of technology in their profession. Technology has played out in the debates of caring versus curing and high-touch versus high-tech in explaining the role of nursing in health care.
The physical environment, particularly in older buildings that were never designed to accommodate newer technologies, is often a constraining factor in the use of many types of equipment used by nurses. For example, research has shown that an ergonomic approach that relies on equipment to promote safe patient handling decreases musculoskeletal injuries in nurses