What Telemedicine Means for Nursing Careers and Education

nurse takes blood pressure

There are a few key reasons that telemedicine really shines:

  1. It allows remote patients to seek out advice from medical professionals in real time.
  2. Patients can record and send their results using telemedicine software for diagnosis and treatment without needing an appointment.
  3. Caregivers can monitor patients remotely using medical devices to collect data.

With the arrival of 5G, which promises fast internet speeds even to those in remote locations, telemedicine is only set to expand, and so will the job opportunities available to those throughout the healthcare industry.

Nurses in particular will see their job roles change and adapt to telemedicine in the future. Already, we are seeing greater phone support for medical care in order to address the nursing shortage.

For first-response diagnoses through a phone or video call, nurses are ideal as they can provide diagnoses for simple conditions and are qualified to refer more complex cases on to doctors and specialists.

How Telemedicine Has Already Changed Nursing Careers

Telemedicine might not be adopted as fully as it could be, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already changed the nursing industry. For those hospitals and clinics that have adopted telemedicine, nurses can expect:

Improved Patient Care and Outlook

When you can provide better, around-the-clock monitoring through telemedicine, patient care and outlook improve. Nurses who would be in charge of monitoring patient condition will be able to do so remotely and vastly improve the aftercare for all of their patients.

Reduced Need for In-Home Visits

Many nurses will handle in-home visits to patients that require around-the-clock care. These patients would typically be supported by a live-in caretaker, but a nurse is still necessary to provide ongoing support. This means:

  • Reduced transportation time for nurses.
  • Reduced transportation and costs for patients

Improved Management for Chronic Diseases

For patients who have chronic diseases to deal with, telemedicine is a lifeline. Nurses will be able to monitor their condition, provide support for small issues, and send for help from paramedics should issues arise. In less serious instances, they will book their patient an appointment with a doctor or schedule them for testing.

Improved Resources for Remote Clinics

Patients are not the only ones who can and have been using telemedicine to improve their quality of care. Doctors and nurses alike in remote clinics can use telemedicine to gain a second opinion on complex cases they are not familiar with.

Increased Demand for Nurses

Nursing is already one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the United States. As Telemedicine improves, the need for new nurses will grow.
Having qualified nurses who have the license to diagnose and treat certain levels of illnesses and injuries on the other end of the line will ensure that resources are used efficiently and that the patient has a human connection when receiving their telemedicine care.

In good news for nurses, the advancement of telemedicine will mean remote working. Nurses could potentially work close to home or at home.

How Telemedicine Will Change Nursing Job Roles in the Future

As telemedicine advances, it only stands to reason that aftercare will become far more hands-on in the future. Given this, it is reasonable to assume that nurses will either be hired to manage a host of remote patients or will be expected to manage a few patients on top of their busy schedules.

Considering the nursing industry is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the United States, it is safe to assume new roles will be created to help those in remote areas receive better healthcare on a daily basis.

More In-Depth Support for Everyday Health Concerns

Nurses will be the forefront of the telemedicine model, and RNs and APRNs will be the ones who patients will get in touch with to help them diagnose everyday health concerns.

More serious diagnoses will obviously require the patient to come in for tests, but standard, everyday advice will be handled by qualified nurses.

One such area that is expected to expand are those seeking out advice and help with childcare and eldercare.

Nursing Roles That Can Be Revolutionized by Telemedicine

Certain nursing roles will benefit more from telemedicine than others. The top two that will see a huge improvement in patient care are:

Geriatric Care

As they age, most people would prefer to do so in the comfort of their own home. With telemedicine, geriatric nurses will be able to monitor their patients remotely and provide supportive care to their caregivers from a distance.

The patients of geriatric nurses will have greater freedoms and more advanced healthcare with the benefits of telemedicine in their repertoire.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioners often manage cases for long-term illnesses and injuries. Telemedicine and the ability to monitor patient health and status remotely is going to provide patients with better care through their recovery or management of a chronic condition.

FNP nurses will be able to focus on patients who need additional support and allow those who are recovering on their own to do so. Through telecommunications, updates can be made and video conferences can be had to monitor the recovery of patients.

This means patients of FNP nurses will:

  • Have ongoing support
  • Not be forced to drive or pay for a cab to attend unnecessary check-ups and appointments
  • Be in touch if any concerns or questions arise

How Telemedicine Plays a Part in Nursing Education

Telemedicine does play a huge part in nursing education. For the very reasons that telemedicine is so great for patients, it can also be great as a learning tool. Telecommunication is also responsible for an innovative, flexible, online learning experience that many nurses today enjoy.

The Ability to Learn 100% Online

Learning online, with the exception of clinical hours and often a three-day residency, is revolutionary. Not only can you acquire the initial CNA certification, but you can go all the way up from a BSN to MSN entirely online. Specialize your degree, and have everything you need to be that FNP nurse right off the bat.

Improves Long-Distance Learning Tools

The advancements made in providing cost-effective care from a distance to patients also provide tools that nurses can use to learn from a distance at their own pace.

Provides Remote Nurses Greater Opportunities (In Education and Careers)

The Limits of Telemedicine

There are limits of telemedicine, especially in the current environment. Though it would allow medical staff, including nurses and doctors, to take better care of their patients at a lower cost, several factors limit their ability to adopt the technology:

State Limits on Licensing

State licensing is an issue as it restricts where nurses and doctors can work within the United States. Those who have a permanent address within compact states will have more wiggle room, but for now, state licensing still makes the issue of remote healthcare tricky.

Cost of Telemedicine

As with any new tech, the cost will be high until it is widespread. Though the framework of telemedicine lies in communication technology, it’s not quite so simple.

Telemedicine is different to telecommunications. While, yes, a phone with a good cell signal can call, that is the very basis of what telemedicine can do.

To really see the potential of telemedicine, several monitoring systems have to be invested:

  1. Telemedicine devices that remotely send health updates to nurses and doctors.
  2. Advanced privacy and safety to secure data over the phone, video, and from device to computer.

These two systems will cost. Patients with chronic illnesses will need specialized devices they wear that will provide health updates to staff. Then, safety and IT will need to be invested in to ensure this data does not get intercepted or accessed by an unauthorized party.

Costs that currently hold back telemedicine from becoming a common and familiar tool in a nurse’s repertoire boil down to two main issues:

  • Cost of Remote Patient Monitoring
  • Cost of Telemedicine Systems

Lack of Formal Policy

There is not yet formal policy on telemedicine, which means that, though telemedicine has influenced and improved nursing careers and education, it is often not directly addressed.

In the future, several changes will need to be made for the sake of nurses and patients alike:

  1. Formal policy on telehealth etiquette
  2. Formal policies guiding interprofessional collaboration
  3. Regulations for nurses and patients
  4. Digital safety and privacy requirements
  5. HIPAA must be taken into consideration
  6. Telehealth ethics must be hashed out

Telemedicine and telehealth does have a long way to go, but acknowledging what telemedicine has already done for the healthcare industry and for nurses in particular is a good way to start.

By providing a clearer framework for behavior and using the newest tech in telehealth and telemedicine towards nurse training, a more accessible healthcare industry can emerge.

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash