Improving the Nurse Work Environment on Medical-Surgical Units Through Technology

Technology offers opportunities to streamline routine tasks and improve the amount and quality of time that nurses can spend with patients. Responses to the infusion of technology in health care settings have been mixed, however, in part because end users often have not been involved in designing technology products or in implementing their use.

Staff at the American Academy of Nursing’s Workforce Commission created Technology Drill Downs, a structured process in which hospital nurses and others work together intensively for two days to identify technological solutions to workflow problems. The Workforce Commission then introduced Drill Downs in 25 acute-care hospitals across the country and disseminated results to hospitals, technology vendors and others.

Key Findings

  • More than 1,000 staff in some 200 adult medical-surgical units at 25 acute-care hospitals participated in 25 two-day Technology Drill Downs.
  • Members of the Workforce Commission promoted the use of Technology Drill Downs through a Technology Drill Down Facilitator’s Guide and other communications products.

Key Results

  • Although nurses were disappointed with many existing technologies that were not user-friendly, did not provide the necessarily functionality or required “work-arounds,” they believe technology can greatly reduce the workflow burden associated with documentation, medication administration, communication, orders and securing equipment and supplies.
  • Examples of technology to improve the practice environment include bedside entry systems that interface to medication, supply and equipment systems and “smart beds” that monitor patients’ vital signs.