When Devices Do the Thinking for RNs, What Training Still Matters?

By Sheena Jones. (Sheena is an LPN in training to be an RN at Dutchess Community College, Poughkeepsie, NY.)

'Technology Then and Now'/iLoveButter, via Flickr

So I’m sitting at home on a rare day off and I get a phone call. It’s the supervisor trying to locate one of the many devices each staff member has to sign in and out at the beginning and end of each shift. The hospital I work for uses bar code scanners, wireless computers, PDAs, and Vocera badges. These things are supposed to reduce errors and in general make the jobs of staff members easier. Once I get to work I feel like I have to put on a utility belt to carry all of these devices.

With all of these machines to think for me, I wonder if all of the schooling I’m enduring to go from my LPN to RN is obsolete. Yes, compassion and empathy can’t be taught or replaced by technology. But sometimes it seems to me that a technology-savvy teenager could do much of this job, as long as she could stomach the visuals at the bedside. I remember studying night and day for an exam about calculating medication dosages, only to discover that the computers give the exact dosage and that drugs come from the pharmacy just as they should be given.

Maybe we are a little bit dependent on technology. You should see the mass panic when there is an electrical surge. Nurses often waste time finding computers on wheels (affectionately known as “COWs”) that have a full battery. If they’re not charged or there’s not enough charge to go around, very few people get any work done until power is restored.

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2016-11-21T13:18:47+00:00 March 15th, 2010|career, students|5 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. AzRN March 31, 2010 at 11:25 am

    The training that matters are the critical thinking skills that use the information our tools help us obtain and analyze. Without the nurses assessment of their patient, the equipment is useless to me.

  2. Iva March 30, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I am a seasoned nurse of 29 years presently working on a Med-Surg-Onc floor, day shift, and working on my Masters and continue to love all that I I do for nursing. Need I say more about how I feel about nursing. We need the technology, when we have enough of the right hardware/software items, when they work properly, and are charged appropriately they make the time we spend at the bedside more meaningful. We are in a shortage with more patients to nurse ratios, and sicker patients on hospital floors. We are working harder than ever. Our skills, hand on, visual, auditory, knowledge and critical thinking can never be taken away from us and we are the heart of nursing the sick. Education is worth all the time and effort. Technology can never take us over, it is going to help us cut down on paperwork, help us keep our patients safe and help us provide quality care. I read an article that described a “nursebot”. Our caring ways can never be replaced by technology. Continue to make the connection I am there in the trenches fighting the battle to protect our patients with you!

  3. B. K. March 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Although equipment is nice to have and to use, we must never forget that it is the patient that we are to take care of. I have seen too many times when care givers start treating lab values and other reports about patients. After a few days, the patients get worse, because they forgot the objective is patient care! Not lab or other equipment care.
    Computers are great, but there should always be enough that are hard wired so that, on the occasion that the charge is low, you can still do the job.

  4. Peggy March 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Technology will never take the place of common sense and proper training. As a “seasoned” nurse who now works for an equipment company, I see negative outcomes when nurses don’t know how to properly use technology and just “figure it out!” Most of the equipment out there can actually help us do our jobs better and more efficiently but if we are not properly trained, we are likely not going to see the benefit. Technology is only as good as the operator- that is why your training is important, always. Hang in there, we need you.

  5. nurse411 March 15, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    The technology helps. The problem lies in the lack of equipment. The facilities need to encourage physicians to use their own equipment. I have had so many stethoscopes “walk” that I use the disposables. The problem becomes all my patient’s lung sounds are deminshed. I understand this puts the patient, and my license at risk, but we are not reimbursed for “theft.” Staffing and education are issues as well. No technology, currently in use, can care for 2 critical or 5 very sick patients. I think before nursing education or nurses become obsolete, physicians would become obsolete. Nursing is advancing healthcare with advanced practice nurses taking jobs from physicians and they are scared.

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