It goes without saying that a lot has changed in healthcare since I was a fresh-faced student nurse back in 1983.
The Internet, smartphones, robotic surgeons, personalised drugs, genome therapy – just about every aspect of the clinical professions have been transformed beyond recognition.
Yet, as I prepare to speak at this year’s UK e-Health Week on 15th May – the last such engagement before stepping down from my role at NHS Digital a few days later – one of the most welcome changes I’ve seen in recent years revolves around the fact that I’ll be on the stage at all.
I’ve spent a significant chunk of my career banging the drum for a stronger voice for nursing in the development of the digital agenda. So, in addition to being proud as a nurse to be representing the profession at such a prestigious event, it seems fitting that I will also be able to present the findings of the recent digital ready consultation Every Nurse an E-Nurse.
This important piece of work recognises that, as the largest healthcare workforce, nursing has a critical role to play in the digital transformation of care.
It’s unfortunate that there remains a sense in some quarters of the NHS that nursing is one of the least advanced professions when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. However, when you travel around the system and see how many antiquated, paper-based systems are still in operation on the wards, it’s easy to see why.
Despite this, I don’t believe that nurses are afraid of new technologies and new ways of working. In my view they just need to be empowered to believe that they are crucial part of the solution to many of today’s digital challenges.
That’s why Every Nurse an E-Nurse is so important. We must engage the nursing workforce and find answers to key questions such as:
Only by understanding how the profession believes it is part of the transformation will we start to build an army of change agents at the interface between patients and technology.
The results of the consultation are surprising in places and inspiring in others. And for me, they paint a hugely encouraging picture of a workforce ready to take their rightful place at the heart of the digital journey.