Nursing science is the development of theories and practical concepts for improving how clinicians and patients administer care and manage conditions. It merges the worlds of natural, applied, and human science into a multi-dimensional lens that explores new and better ways to deliver health services.
Natural sciences may consider two patients with the same ailments in a similar way. However, applied science might examine how their different socioeconomic backgrounds and community environments affect their ailments, and human science would study the philosophical, social and cultural aspects of each individual. For this reason, nursing science can be considered a holistic science as it understands that each of these components is best understood in relation to one another.
Nursing science stands at the forefront of the most significant trend in the medical services sector today: patient-centered care. Gone are the days of nursing as a purely task-oriented role. Today, nursing science contributes to the research and discovery of innovative approaches that improve health outcomes. Nurses know their patients best, and the trust and communication between nurses and their patients facilitate better diagnoses and experiences.
Nursing science also takes into account that care does not end when a patient is discharged. In a world of increasing technological diagnoses and practically infinite data points, nursing science maintains a critical human element in the balance of care.
Nursing science gave the world the crash cart and color-coded IV lines, according to Mental Floss. Now the field is focused on developing better alarm systems that do not bother patients and simultaneously do not go unheard by nurses in cases of alarm fatigue. Scientists and researchers are exploring the way care delivery interacts with the textured landscape of patients’ cultural, social, and racial backgrounds.
Nursing science is the application of hard sciences with a compassionate aim, and its innovations improve both patient wellbeing and caregiver response. As further advancements in medical care complicate the healthcare sector, nursing science is driving best practices in patient care within the entire ecosystem of the industry. Below are five recent advancements in the field.
Telehealth and Telenursing
Telehealth is the method of delivering long-distance care through tablets, computers, electronic charts, and smartphones. As communication technology evolves, so do the applications in care delivery. Telehealth is a relatively new field but is already projected to become a $34 billion market by the end of the decade, according to Mordor Intelligence.
Telenursing puts cutting-edge technology in the hands of nurses, allowing them to monitor patients with chronic conditions through video chat or to provide critical care to patients in remote areas. Telenursing removes the burden of distance and transportation, therefore increasing care beyond the number of beds in a hospital, providing access to patients with mobility problems, and even reducing response times. Additionally, telenursing reduces costs by allowing patients to self-test, structuring treatment sessions that seamlessly fit a caregiver’s workflow, and sorting patients according to urgency before they show up at a care facility.
Nursing informatics merges nursing science with information management and computer science. It identifies, manages, and communicates patient care or provider data, along with the resultant insights, to both the patient community and the broader medical practice. Nursing informatics develops more efficient processes that can provide more complete care and result in better patient outcomes.
Nursing informatics is quickly becoming an integral part of public health and national healthcare policies. For example, electronic medical records (EMRs) log patient data from multiple entry points and collect it into a single platform that can provide a more complete patient picture. That data can then transition between different facilities and care teams. With this data, providers can inform more complete diagnoses, and targeted interventions and patients can make informed choices about their health. On a broader scale, aggregated and anonymized health data can be analyzed for broader trends in public health, which may, in turn, lead to better health outcomes for entire populations.
As more data is collected, and more robust analytical software analyzes the data, nursing informatics and patient care will transform at a faster rate. Algorithms can already ping a patient for a check-up based on current symptoms and past medical history. Electronic surveys can yield more honest patient answers than impersonal and rushed medical appointments, and automated checklists can de-burden medical staff by directing patients to self-care options.
Photovoice is a qualitative method of community-based research that uses photographs to encourage knowledge and transformative change, especially among marginalized groups. In the context of nursing, patient-participants are asked to capture and share photographs that relate to a particular condition, as well as their sentiments regarding it. These photographs can reveal dimensions of a patient’s condition that had previously gone unnoticed, thus leading to more interesting discussions between patient and provider, as well as within patient groups, and better health outcomes.
Photovoice is transformative in the most vulnerable patient populations—those in developing countries or lower socioeconomic classes, and those suffering from mental trauma or physical disabilities. Photovoice surpasses linguistic barriers and provides a more informed view of not only the medical condition but social context surrounding it. It has been used to improve care for rural Chinese women, for Latina mothers of children with asthma, and for African American youth with medical management disparities.
While nursing informatics captures the hard data, photovoice goes a step further, to where technical instrumentation does not yet reach—acting as a compassionate way to elicit further information from patients and thereby reaching more informed diagnoses and adequately targeted interventions.
Patient Identification Technology
Patient identification is not as easy as it sounds. Preventable medical harm results in almost 100,000 deaths a year, according to research in the peer-reviewed journal, the BMJ. Even when misidentification does not have fatal outcomes, it can lead to diagnostic errors, improper early discharge, and general discomfort for both patients and providers. The precise causes of misidentification can cover a wide spectrum of errors, from technical malfunction to simple fatigue. However, advancements in identification technology are taking a proactive and pragmatic approach to the issue.
Compared to simple barcoded patient wristbands, which have been an industry standard for decades, newer methods of identification, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, are reusable, easier to scan, more secure, and able to carry more information. Similarly, palm vein scanning utilizes biometric identification in a way that is both reliable and minimally intrusive. These are just two examples of several innovative approaches to patient identification which are transforming patient care by reducing medical error, securing patient data, saving long-term costs, and streamlining routine processes so that attention can be redirected to more critical areas.
Smart beds use advanced medical technology at the point of care, connecting important information wirelessly, seamlessly, and directly to care providers. Smart beds can monitor a patient’s blood pressure, body temperature, heartbeat, oxygen levels, and more, and deliver it to a central node which can be accessed remotely. Smart beds can even turn a patient every few hours to reduce the risk of bedsores. Bedsores are the third most expensive disorder, after cancer and cardiovascular disease, and affect over 1.3 million adults every year.
Smart beds are transforming health services by making medical facilities more efficient in process, more responsive in care, and more complete in diagnosis. With smart beds, X-rays can be completed bedside. Vital biometrics can be monitored continuously and without disturbing a patient. Breathing patterns can be analyzed for cases of sleep apnea, and the bed can even adjust itself to compensate. Nurses are almost always needed in at least two places at once; smart beds can free nurses up to complete more important tasks, by ensuring that the patient is being monitored and taken care of at all times.
Helpful Resources and Organizations in Nursing Science
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is a national voice for academic nursing education. The organization establishes quality standards for nursing education, helps schools implement those standards, and promotes public support for nursing education, research, and practice. Its nursing science campaign advocates for support of the critical work of nurse scientists, and pushes to protect funding of federal research agencies.
An open membership council of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science has the mission of achieving better health through nursing science. The organization acts as a voice for nurse scientists, supports the development, conduct, and utilization of nursing science, and facilitates learning opportunities for nurse scientists.
The American Journal of Nursing Science provides a platform to share knowledge related to improving health outcomes and promoting the development of nursing. The organization publishes rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly articles on a wide range of topics, such as nursing ethics and management, patient education and counseling, diagnostics and prescribing, and collaborations with physicians.
Advances in Nursing Science (ANS) is one of the most well-read journals by the nursing community. The journal publishes scholarly articles that primarily deal with global sustainability and intersectionality within the context of nursing. The publication’s blog also acts as a platform for the discussion of issues raised in the articles published in ANS, fostering an active dialogue among community members.
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