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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Leveraging Technology for the Greater Good

Published June 3, 2015 3:31 PM by Guest Blogger

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ronda McKay, DNP, CNS, RN is chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Community Hospital, Munster, Ind.

My recent article - Using Technology to Enhance Nurse Safety - generated quite a bit of response from members of the nursing community.  The discussion is important, as such discourse helps to move our profession forward.  I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize some points that I think should be added to this conversation:

1. Safety is an important concern for all healthcare workers, especially nurses.  According to Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for 2015, a recently released report from ECRI Institute, a non-profit research organization, "managing patient violence" should be a top priority for all healthcare organizations.  Our organization, Community Hospital, Munster, Ind., is addressing this important challenge, and others should follow suit. The button on the real-time locating systems (RTLS) badge allows our nurses to summon help immediately when faced with patient violence. The system also helps to improve nursing workflow - patient calls are automatically cancelled when the nurse enters the room, so the nurse focus on the patient rather than the button on the wall.

2. The use of RTLS is just one of a variety of initiatives that we have in place to keep workers safe.  It is a single, but important, component of a multi-faceted security program that includes a variety of strategies and technologies designed to keep our staff safe.

3. Healthcare organizations need to create healthy working environments for their workers.   Leaders and managers need to communicate freely and openly with staff about workplace practices, policies and procedures.  Perhaps more important, though, leaders need to abide by the "actions speak louder than words" rule and make sure their organizations not only talk about but actually nurture environments of trust. Indeed, it's this communication and follow-through that leads to a healthy and happy work environment, not the fact that an organization does or does not use a particular technology - such as RTLS.

4.  We fully understand the "big brother" concerns associated with RTLS.  That's why we clearly spelled out the expectations and intended purpose for using RTLS before implementing the system.  Even more important, organizations then need to actually use RTLS in the expressed manner (i.e. to improve workflow, enhance safety or track assets - not to monitor employee breaks or keep tabs on employee movement).  For example, if an organization adopts RTLS in an effort to improve workflow - and then uses the technology to make it possible for clinicians to spend more time at the patient bedside, the RTLS will be warmly embraced.  Of course, if an organization does monitor clinicians' break time and uses the information in a punitive manner, clinicians will quickly dismiss RTLS, and the benefits of the system will never be realized.  Overall, when RTLS is implemented to accomplish specific goals - and then is only used for this express purpose - concerns about the technology being used to covertly keep tabs on workers quickly dissipate.

In sum, succeeding with RTLS, as with any other technology, takes much more than simply implementing the solution. To truly benefit from any innovation, organizations need to create and nurture a culture that can truly support the use of technology solutions for the greater good.


How much money do these Real-Time Locating Systems cost the Health Care Organization on an average daily and yearly basis, who is suppose to service the system and how are these systems being paid for by most health care institutions?  Are there any studies that indicate via patient satisfaction surveys, ("thank goodness my nurse was wearing her RTLS....")that patient perception of hospital safety and safe patient/nurse/staff ratios have improved due to motion detection technology?  Do patient's and nurse's  feel that this technology makes them safer in the hospital setting?  The sensor is a motion detector but how is it detecting human motion, via radio waves or infrared waves that are transmitted along a wireless  computer network?  People carry so many electronic devices in their pockets today, such as cell phones, personal assistant devices, some  health care workers still are required to carry beepers, how much radiation is being emitted and absorbed by the people who are wearing and carrying these devices and what effect if any is it having on their health?  Obviously human beings transmit signals, any nurse in an ICU and any patient on a cardiac monitor will tell you that, but not all patients need cardiac monitoring and is exposure to more forms of radiation really necessary and is this form of technology the best solution to improve safety in Hospitals? Most importantly if the alarm sounds there must be someone available to respond to that alarm and offer aid to those who push the button.  Where have our former safety systems failed and how has this new technological system succeeded in overcoming those protection obstacles?  

Wendy, Critical care - RN, Holy Redeemer June 15, 2015 11:12 PM
Philadelphia PA

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