High-Tech Tools for Nurses

By Tracey Porpora

Today’s nurses have access to a wide array of high-tech products, systems and instruments that are helping them do their job more efficiently. “Technology is a tool to help improve the nursing practice…. Technology helps us work smarter and faster and prevent errors,” says Susan K. Newbold, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, FHIMSS, an associate professor of nursing informatics at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn.

Here are five new high-tech nursing favorites:
RP-7 Robot
Robotics aren’t just for surgery rooms anymore. A new model by InTouch Health is being used in hospital units. This wireless, human-sized robot can follow nurses through the hallways of the hospital. And, while the physician is actually seated in front of a computer, he or she can interact with patients, family members and other healthcare professionals anywhere in the hospital. “This machine has a computer monitor as the head of the robot. But when you look at it, you’ll see the head of the person you’re communicating with,” says Newbold. “If the nurse needs to access a physician at home, he or she can dial into the robot and connect with the healthcare professionals through the RP-7 Robot.” The RP-7 Remote Presence System is built on InTouch Health’s “Virtually There” interactive technology, which integrates digital cameras, audio microphones, amplification circuitry and custom software to create two-way, audio-video communications.
Rad-57 Pulse CO-Oximetry™
This fairly new portable device from Masimo can help detect carbon monoxide poisoning in a patient. The Rad-57 is a handheld Signal Extraction Pulse CO-Oximeter(TM) that uses a sensor clipped onto a patient’s finger to measure the percentage of hemoglobin bound to carbon monoxide. “Before we had this technology, patients [with carbon monoxide poisoning] would come into the emergency room complaining of flu-like symptoms, headaches or blurred vision [and often be misdiagnosed],” says Mary Russell, Ed.D, MSN, a certified emergency nurse at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Boca Raton, Fla. “Carbon monoxide poisoning is missed in emergency rooms 30-to-50 percent of the time. This has helped change that.”


Electronic Health Records

Modern technology has allowed patients’ information to be consolidated and immediately available to healthcare professionals with just a click of a mouse. Several companies have devised electronic records systems that allow all members of a healthcare facility access to the same medical records instantaneously. “This includes everything from chart notes to immunization records,” says Julia Gunther, RN, office supervisor of Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, N.J. Gunther says electronic health records have enhanced her office’s “continuity of care…. there isn’t a delay where nurses have to wait for a patient’s chart.”

The SimMan
This life-sized, technologically-advanced human simulator is used to teach nursing students valuable care-giving and medical techniques. “The SimMan allows for hands-on learning for nurses,” says Cindy Iavagnilio, MSN, RN, CRNA, assistant professor of nursing at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind. “It can talk and be programmed to have normal and abnormal breath sounds, normal and abnormal heart sounds, blood pressures and ECG rhythms,” says Iavagnilio. “It can be hooked up to monitors and devices, IV lines, nasogastric tubes and practically anything else you wish to add to the scenario. The SimMan has been proven effective in teaching communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking and clinical skills.”

Barcode Medication Administration System

This hand-held PDA device allows nurses to instantly read all patients' medication at their bedside. Patients wear bar-coded identification bracelets so a nurse can “scan the patient” and receive all the necessary medication information. “This helps ensure the patient’s safety,” says Beth Kilmoyer, MS, RN, BC, informatics project manager at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. “After scanning the medication, the barcode system makes sure the right patient is receiving the right drug, at the right dose, in the right route, at the right time.”


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