According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there is a current need for approximately 2 million full time registered nurses in the country to provide adequate patient care. This need is anticipated to grow to 2.8 million by the year 2020 with an estimated shortage of 1 million nurses by that time. Therefore this supports the need to invest in nursing professional education, but also this highlights the importance of enhancing nursing care through innovative means of technology.
Nursing care plans are a means by which nurses continually assess, diagnose, implement and evaluate overall care and progress of a patient. In the past, documentation of the nursing care plan had been time consuming, but with the advent of computerized data systems, this process has been streamlined for nurses providing greater efficiency. This efficiency has alleviated some of the pains felt by nursing shortages, but much broader areas of potential exist as these systems become more creative.
In a study where 20 nurses were formally interviewed, various questions were posed regarding the benefits in using a computerized nursing care plan system. In addition to the expected response of streamlined care, nurses added several areas of benefit. These benefits included a reference for their memory for patient details, a learning tool for patient care, and a vehicle to easily modify care plan content. These responses highlight the creative potential for nursing care plans as IT solutions are developed.
Information included in a nursing care plan routinely involves the anticipated care that a nurse will provide for a patient, specifically identified patient problems, and a guide in assessing and evaluating the success of that care. In other words, the nursing care plan exists in an intermediary stage of the nursing process between initial evaluation and final outcome. Given its central position in patient care, it would appear obvious that a computerized nursing care plan offers great potential in many areas other than just making care more efficient.
For example, the increase in patient to nursing ratio has not only reduced the amount of time a nurse has per patient, but also increased the volume of information overall that the nurse must remember. Computerized care plans allow comprehensive storage of this information. If creative technological developments allow mobile and fluid access to this data, quality of patient care will be improved.
Additionally, a large part of quality patient care depends on preventative measures. Nursing care plans that include educational tools to teach patients preventative measures results in better long term health outcomes. Developing and adopting methods that automate these educational tools through computerized means saves nurses time, but also can be more comprehensive and thorough. Interactive tools even allow care plan documentation that patients received and understood content.
In the past, changes in the nursing care plan were more difficult to track. A change may be noted, but documentation for the change may be vague or located in other areas of the plan. This hindered continuity among nurses on different shifts or in different patient care areas. Computerized solutions could allow an improvement in this continuity of information throughout a patient’s care experience. This would include information from hospital to care facilities to even outpatient centers.
Nursing care plans provide a wealth of information about the care of a patient, and these also serve as guides to ensure optimal patient care. As greater demands on nurses evolve, it will be imperative to assist their abilities to maintain care plans accurately. Computerized solutions assist in this need through making documentation and care plan creation more efficient. In addition, however, technological solutions also provide a means to improve quality of care by making information readily accessible and by providing preventative educational tools for patients and nurses. These aspects make these creative solutions even more attractive as health care resources continue to shrink in relation to health care demand.
Anderson, Beth. (2007) Care Plans: Worthwhile or Worthless? Retrieved from http://agedcareact.wordpress.com on June 10th, 2008.
Edmunds, Linda. (1982) Computer-assisted Nursing Care. Vol 82 (7): 1076-79.
Lee, Tin-ting. (2006). Nurses’ Perception of Their Documentation Experiences in a Computerized Nursing Care Plan System. Journal of Clinical Nursing. Vol 15: 1376-82.