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Feb 05

Technology and the Art of Nursing

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I was chatting with a colleague last week, and she was telling me about her class discussion around technology in nursing. We mused, as have others in the nursing literature, about how the truly expert nurse makes even the most intrusive technology almost invisible, whereas the novice is overwhelmed and preoccupied with it. It reminded me of a nurse I worked with as a Master’s student several years ago. Maggie was a trauma ICU nurse, and one of the most expert nurses I was ever able to observe in action. I vividly recall her care of a young man, still a teenager, who had been in a terrible motor vehicle accident–I’ll call him Jeremy.  When I began working with Maggie, she had been the primary nurse with Jeremy for about 3 days. The walls around his bed were plastered with photocopied pictures of Jeremy doing the things he loved to do: hiking, hanging out with friends and family, skiing…it was hard to believe that the bruised and swollen face attached to the e-tube was the same smiling young man that looked out with such joy from those pictures. Maggie talked to him almost non-stop…she knew the stories behind the pictures from talking with his parents, and she would chat to him, using the names of his friends and family, telling him how he would be doing all those fun things again soon, that he just had some healing to do. She would tell him jokes, all the while expertly monitoring the equipment that was preserving his life and tracking his physiological status from moment to moment. She would gently position him, performing skin and wound care and all manner of treatments, all the while watching for his responses through that technology: the technology simply became a way for Jeremy to communicate with her. She also invited the wisdom of his family into the care process… I remember she would get him turned, and ask his Mom, or Dad, if he looked comfortable to them…”would Jeremy lay on his side like this?” It was a beautiful  expression of nurse caring, amidst a tangle of tubes and technology, and a priviledge to witness.

Do you have story of how technology in your area of nursing has changed, and how you keep the patient visible in its midst?

I’d love to hear it.

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