Cooper is supportive of the theme proposed in the report “Clinical documentation and nurses: the challenges and opportunities”. ‘If technology firms develop a deep understanding of how nurses work it will enable them to provide better quality solutions,’ she believes, but emphasises that nursing is a complex profession and, more than ever, in the digital era nurses need solutions that reflect that complexity. ‘Nurses and midwives are creative; they have been finding solutions to problems for hundreds of years,’ Cooper adds. ‘If we can tap into this creativity it will lead to better technical solutions. To achieve this we need to see nurses and midwives as partners in technology developments, not merely “users”.’
Deeper understanding of the workload
With recognised nurse shortages in the UK, new ways had to be found to help and support nurses in their role to enable them to work more effectively. ‘Technology, if we get it right, has the potential to help,’ she suggests. ‘For example, if we can bring information and knowledge nearer to where nurses and midwives make decisions then this can support nurses to deliver the best outcomes, efficiently.’
In terms of technology specialists shadowing nurses she emphasises, ‘Observing actual practice is critical to ensuing technology solutions meet the needs of staff. Unless we understand the complexity of nursing we are likely to provide imperfect tools.’ Results from this technology initiative – part of the ‘every nurse an e-nurse’ campaign of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) are expected this May at the 2018 RCN Congress.
Nurses and midwives will also need to become data savvy to ensure we make the best use of the new information that technology will provideAnne Cooper
‘It will be interesting to hear what the most important issues are for nurses and midwives so that we can look to taking the most important steps to support modern nursing practice. If we listen carefully we are much more likely to do the right things. If we give nurses and midwives the best tools to do their work and pay attention to their education needs, we will be moving towards the best modern nursing practice using technology and data.’
Whilst Cooper acknowledges the importance of technology, she stresses this is only a tool to deliver data and information. ‘Nurses and midwives will also need to become data savvy to ensure we make the best use of the new information that technology will provide.’
Anne Cooper is head nurse at NHS Digital, an arm’s-length body (non-governmental) in England which is responsible for creating, delivering and managing the digital systems, services, products and standards upon which healthcare professionals and citizens depend. She qualified as a nurse in 1986 and has spent the last 15 years working in informatics.