Nursing has evolved over the past couple of decades, with the role now holding more authority than ever before. The picture of a nurse only following a physician on the rounds or monitoring patients at bedsides has changed. Nurses are now able to perform tasks such as administering treatments or performing diagnostics tests, causing the system to rely on them even more.
The world population aging and crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic have only proved that the role of nurses is vital for society. However, we’ve also learned that their numbers are stretched thin. That’s why some have looked at modern technology to provide the solution. Now we cannot help but wonder if virtual nurses could bridge that gap.
What Are Virtual Nurses?
As the name suggests, virtual or telehealth nurses provide health care from afar. They use VoIP, webcams, phones, and the Internet to reach patients in their homes or hospitals. But, no matter the means of communication, virtual nursing is a very effective way of delivering care.
Virtual nurses must be detail-oriented and well-versed in the subtleties of patient monitoring. That’s why they are rarely recent graduates. In fact, this vocation requires at least five years of experience in intensive care.
Virtual nurses spend their time in front of screens, monitoring the vitals, making specialist referrals, and much more. Or they talk online or over the phone with patients, answering their questions and helping them follow through on their therapy. They also act as a link between patients and other healthcare professionals, alerting onsite nurses of changes in patients’ conditions. At the same time, they navigate the latest technology, streamline virtual appointments, and watch over a number of patients.
Many telehealth nurses work from home, but others do their job from specialized facilities. They also visit clinics to follow up on patients and their results or handle the vital equipment.
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Nursing?
Countries all over the world are in serious need of more nurses and nurse salaries are expecting to rise in coming future. That is why virtual options have been on the rise in the past several years, even before the Covid-19 outbreak. Here are some of the benefits of telehealth nurses.
1. Sharing the Workload With RNs
Telehealth nurses take a huge burden off the onsite nurses since they can monitor patients at risk. They can see all the subtle symptoms and signs that can point to status changes.
That leaves the nurses in clinics with more time to focus on other patients. The overall goal is to help RNs reduce trips to patients with, for instance, chronic problems. With some of the pressure and legwork taken off them, onsight nurses can get more rest.
2. Care for the Patients in Rural Places
Virtual nursing also comes in handy in rural communities that lack reliable healthcare access. Patients in such situations have to travel far to seek medical help or do routine checkups, which is why they often decide not to. But they might be more proactive in seeking assistance with virtual nurses at their disposal.
Such services are also useful when there are no available ICU beds. So, instead of a patient traveling hours to the nearest hospital with specialized ICUs, a virtual nurse could watch over them.
3. Better Way to Approach Mental Health Patients
Likewise, mental health patients who struggle to leave their homes might find virtual nurses a suitable option. In certain cases, patients suffering from depression or anxiety feel more comfortable talking to nurses online or over the phone. That is why virtual nurses might be the best way to motivate such patients to seek the treatment they need.
4. More Quality Education for Nurses
Telehealth requires nurses to become tech-savvy and gain a deeper knowledge of various clinical specialties, like cardiology, oncology, neurology, etc. Virtual nurses are also great resources for clinicians. They can do quick research and find details on various symptoms and treatment options.
Common Challenges Virtual Nurses Face
In telehealth service, communication is the most vital part. However, many patients still struggle to trust nurses they interact with only online. Moreover, a high volume of patients assigned to virtual nurses makes it difficult to connect with every one of them.
Another problem is that not all virtual nurses can quickly adapt to the cutting-edge technology they have to use. To better serve patients, the healthcare system gets new applications and equipment all the time. But that can be challenging to master, even for tech-savvy nurses.
What Does the Future Look Like for Telehealth Nurses?
The need for nurses will only continue to rise in the decades to come. So, we can safely assume that virtual nurses will become an important part of the healthcare system.
Onsite and virtual nurses must join together to provide the highest level of care for every patient. They could work side by side to process documents, educate patients, perform rounds, and respond to patients’ needs. Onsite nurses can deal with emergencies while virtual nurses perform regular checkups and watch over patients.
Without a doubt, this new system has a steep learning curve. Still, nurses have generally been the first to adopt new technology in the past. Since virtual nursing can improve patient care and change the playing field for nurses, it is only a matter of time before hospitals and clinics across the globe realize its benefits.