A nurse’s intuition: Filling the gaps technology can’t

By Julie Mills, RNC  /  05 May 2016

As prevalent and useful as technology is in healthcare today, there are still areas and issues technology can’t effectively enhance, solve or replace. Each patient is unique, and comes with his or her own set of symptoms, pain points and responses, which can’t always be deciphered by even the most state-of-the-art technology.

I’ve been a registered nurse with a specialty in perinatal care for 14 years, and I’ve learned that nurses in particular play an irreplaceable role in getting to the heart of clinical nuances that are ever present in healthcare. Since we’re often the caregivers who have the most connection with our patients from end-to-end, we bring unique insight in viewing the patient holistically – which makes our perspectives and instinctive judgments important as it relates to patient care, and difficult for any machine to replicate.

As critical thinkers with a deeply grounded knowledge in providing care, nurses have the ability to take the various aspects of care and form a conclusion that technology may not be able to see. For instance, there are advances in technology that play a large role in the accuracy of patient observation; however, the observations from patient interactions made by nurses can share an equal amount of valuable information. This kind of thing can’t always be replicated by predictive analytics, sensors, monitors, etc. While protocols may dictate how I administer a medication, every patient is uniquely different in his response. The science of executing a protocol is not enough. In the art of nursing, nurses must evaluate the dynamic response of the patient and make slight adjustments that lead to the desired outcome–this is not something that is taught in a textbook or that can be ordered in the EHR.

As another example, if a patient has lab work done and the report is flagged as critical, it may go through the steps of an established protocol whereby notifications are made the appropriate physicians, regardless of context. A nurse who is familiar with the patient’s full history in this case, however, would be able to review the report differently by evaluating the context and then sharing that information as needed. By looking at the big picture, it could be determined this response is normal due to the specific treatment or condition – a judgment that could save valuable time and resources.

When caring for patients, there will always be a place for a nurse’s judgment. That human interaction is extremely important. While some might call this instinct nurse’s intuition, it’s a skill that continues to be valuable in the midst of all the technology that is coming into play. Combining nurse’s intuition with innovative technology is essential to providing safe, efficient, cost-effective patient care. Nursing truly is a work of art.   

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