Medicine and technology have continuously operated hand-in-glove, and never has that been more true than today — and this is all the more reason for nurses to prioritize tech literacy if they want to be the best nurse they can be.
Nursing is the ultimate caring profession, but nursing is also a science. Making it through the rigors of nursing school proves you’ve got what it takes to manage the challenging academics and the more tender side of the profession.
If you are a nurse looking for an opportunity to boost the quality of care you provide your patients, then enhancing your tech literacy should be job one.
Tech Literacy Expands Patient Access to Quality Care
There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid ascendancy of telehealth have transformed nursing practice. It’s estimated, for example, that as much as 25% of patients had used telehealth services in 2022, with a significant proportion of those patients deriving from demographic groups historically marginalized within the national health system, including minorities and patients on Medicare and Medicaid.
This means that the ability to render care through telehealth platforms is increasingly important for nurses seeking to increase their access to and service traditionally at-risk patient populations.
Supporting Patient Engagement and Education
You’re not just a caregiver and comforter when you are a nurse. Every nurse knows that patient education is one of the most critical aspects of the job. As the patient’s primary advocate and point of contact, nurses are uniquely positioned to help educate patients on critical issues, such as disease prevention and management.
And technology is often one of a nurse’s most essential tools for increasing health literacy. For example, nurses may engage with patients one-on-one through email or private video conferencing, create digital documents on a clinic’s website to address common patient health concerns, or conduct remote seminars and online patient education events to help disseminate health and wellness information to the community at large.
This means that nurses, as educators, need to cultivate their expertise in an array of productivity and communication technologies, from secure video conferencing platforms to the creation of documents, images, videos, and infographics for online consumption.
In addition, tech literacy in nurses is also critical for supporting the digital health literacy of patients. Patients, for instance, may need to learn how to use telehealth services securely and effectively. They may also need help locating reliable health information online or may be subject to health misinformation due to their relative inexperience in assessing the credibility of online information.
However, a highly tech-literate nurse can play an invaluable role in helping patients learn to use telehealth and navigate the confusing sea of online medical information — the good, the bad, and the unproven.
Researchers have found, for instance, that 89% of health consumers look up medical information online before consulting with their doctors. However, without the aid of a technically proficient nurse to show them how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to health claims found online, the consequences of a health-related online search may be dire.
Tech Literacy as a Conduit for Nursing Leadership
Nurses are caregivers and educators, but they’re also leaders, and the mastery of technology can be an important vehicle for ascending through the ranks of your profession. For instance, cultivating a broad leadership and technical skill set ensures your versatility within the field, enabling you to deliver the same superior level of care in the telehealth domain as you do in a physical clinical setting.
In addition, developing robust technical skills also helps you engage in advanced research that is valuable for nurse leaders. This might include, for example, the ability to use technology to compile and analyze massive quantities of Big Health Data and then transform this analysis into evidence-based nursing care practices that can significantly improve patient outcomes and experiences.
Tech literacy isn’t tangential to the practice of nursing. More than ever, technical skills are critical to quality patient care. Tech literacy helps nurses increase access to and care for the most vulnerable patient populations. It supports the nurse’s efforts to bolster patient health literacy, including their digital health literacy, which can, in turn, protect them against potentially dangerous online health misinformation. Tech literacy is also a central component of nursing leadership, enabling aspiring nurses to rise to the top of their profession as skilled, versatile, and knowledgeable practitioners.