Edited by: Rose Watson
So, we established in our last blog that the nurse staffing crisis is going to be a consistent problem for healthcare organizations. While the industry will need to adapt, invest, and restructure toward a more sustainable nursing workforce for the future, there are front runners that are taking leaps to change their process today. Among strategies like flexible scheduling and partnership programs with nursing schools, the launch of virtual nursing programs is splashing onto the scene. While virtual nursing has been used in less severe, outpatient scenarios for some time, new developments are bringing virtual nurses into acute care.
Virtual nurses provide patient care remotely through technology such as video conferencing, chatbots, and wearable devices. One of the primary uses of virtual nurses is to improve patient access to care. Virtual nurses help bridge gaps in care by providing remote monitoring and care management services outside acute environments. This can be particularly beneficial for patients with chronic conditions who require ongoing care and monitoring.
When brought into acute environments, virtual nurse teams can shoulder a range of daily tasks, allowing in-person nurses to focus on active care. With robust digital access to rooms, virtual nurses can increase communication with patients, take on time-consuming tasks like admission and discharge, and can complete administrative duties that often interrupt active care. This new method of healthcare delivery can bring new efficiency to a nursing team while opening a wider range of roles for those trained in nursing.
Another use of virtual nurses is to improve patient engagement and education. Using chatbots and other digital tools, virtual nurses can provide patients with personalized information and support. They can also help patients better understand their conditions and treatment options, which can lead to better adherence to treatment plans and improved health outcomes. Virtual nursing teams can communicate with patients after discharge and conduct follow-ups, creating more connective tissue with a patient’s acute care experience. This can often reduce readmissions which are costly to hospitals.
Virtual nurses can also play an important role in public health. As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual nurses can provide support to patients who are quarantined or otherwise unable to access traditional healthcare services. Having the option of virtual nurses rounding in quarantined rooms allows less wasted PPE and greater protection for in-person teams in extenuating circumstances. This can help prevent the spread of disease and ensure that patients receive the care they need.
The role virtual nurses play is only expanding across all levels of care. These tools are the ones that agile healthcare organizations will be engaging with first. Those that invest in creating a flexible, blended team of in-person and digital support will begin to shape the future of nursing.