In the growing field of telemedicine, nurses and doctors can provide treatment even when a patient can’t visit a hospital or clinic. By communicating with patients via telephone or the Internet and viewing photographs and digital scans, they can diagnose ailments and recommend treatment options. Nurse informaticists play a critical role in implementing this technology, by designing and maintaining the systems required for treating patients remotely.
Nurse informaticists need extensive training in both nursing practice and computer science, with many completing degrees or certificate programs in nursing informatics. These programs incorporate nursing principles, computer science and information science, enabling graduates to understand the role that technology plays in enhancing patient care. Nurse informaticists combine their clinical expertise and technical knowledge to determine the technology that best suits the needs of the organization and its patients, while also providing technical support to users.
Remote treatment can bring top-notch health care to patients no matter where they are and no matter how limited a health care organization’s resources. Rural hospitals, small health clinics, prisons and schools often use this strategy. because they lack the tools or staff for certain cases. Telemedicine nurses use videoconferencing; phone communication; still images, such as photos or X-rays; virtual assessment of vital signs; and online portals where patients can communicate with health care providers.
Nursing informatics rarely involves hands-on patient care, instead focusing on the tools needed to help home health and telemedicine nurses accurately evaluate their patients’ progress. In telemedicine and home health, nurses rely on technology and telehealth to keep tabs on their patients’ conditions. For example, they often use tools that assess and record vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose. Nurse informaticists assist in setting up this equipment in patients’ homes, teaching them how to use it and troubleshooting in the event of technical difficulties.
Training Fellow Nurses
In addition to developing the systems and tools for telemedicine nurses, nurse informaticists educate health care workers in the proper use of this equipment. In many cases, nurses know very little about the tools and methods available in telemedicine. They can’t simply go a patient’s bedside if they want to evaluate his status. Instead, they must rely on communicating with him remotely or viewing and interpreting medical images. Nurse informaticists teach telemedicine nurses how to use these systems and adjust to this approach to patient care.