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Adrienne is a freelance writer and designer with a strong interest in healthy living and health technology. She has strong interests in the Quantified Self movement and practices yoga. You can see more of her work on her blog, Miss Rx.

Fighting the nursing shortage with technology

March 3, 2016

Nurses are constantly in high demand. After all, people are always getting sick, and nurses are dedicated to helping their patients recover as quickly as possible. Right now, there are more than 3.1 million registered nurses in the United States, with about 84% of them actively employed in the nursing field.

With all of the amazing men and women who make up the nursing profession, it’s hard to believe that there could be a nursing shortage. The problem isn’t a lack of willing individuals — it’s a lack of nursing instructors.

In 2012, almost 80,000 nursing candidates were turned away from the required graduate programs, simply because there wasn’t enough room in the available classes.

Advances in technology could possibly provide alternative options for nurses looking to complete baccalaureate or graduate programs and become registered nurses. This would allow us to overcome the nursing shortage.

Let’s examine three possible ways we can combat the shortage of nursing instructors.

Offer More E-Learning Opportunities

For the textbook portions of nursing programs, online classes could help to make up for the lack of nursing teachers. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been conducting studies on the effectiveness of e-learning versus traditional classroom learning, and their results have been somewhat surprising.

After 108 total studies, the WHO concluded that e-learning students learn as well — or in some cases even better — than they do in a traditional classroom setting.

The only major caveats with e-learning are the practical skills and clinical requirements, which can’t be taken strictly online.

Utilize Simulated Lessons

It can be difficult to learn the required practical skills if there is a lack of certified nursing teachers, so simulated lessons can help fill the gap.

Simulated lessons use mannequins that are designed to mimic a variety of scenarios, allowing nurses-in-training to learn how to do everything from an emergency tracheotomy to delivering a baby.

Nursing instructors must supervise simulations, but these lessons help new students train using the cutting edge technology that is required to succeed in the ever-changing nursing field.

Accept a Little Help

Technological advances can be used for more than training. Technology also provides fantastic tools for handling some of the more menial tasks that take nurses away from aiding their patients. Tug, an autonomous robot employed in the San Francisco Mission Bay wing of the University of California, is the first step in this direction.

These blocky white robots can be used to deliver food from the cafeteria, remove dirty linens and medical waste, and even deliver medications from the hospital pharmacy.

Don’t worry — Tug isn’t replacing anyone’s job. Instead, it’s handling all the running around so nurses, doctors, and specialists can focus on what they do best: saving lives.

With the average age of a registered nurse slowly creeping over 50, many nurses currently working in the field could potentially retire within the next 15 years. If these new teaching techniques are implemented, we should be able to circumvent the growing nursing shortage before it reaches critical mass.

Adrienne Erin

Adrienne is a freelance writer and designer with a strong interest in healthy living and health technology. She has strong interests in the Quantified Self movement and practices yoga. You can see more of her work on her blog, Miss Rx.

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