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Devices & Desires: Gender, Technology and American Nursing

I recently read, Devices and Desires: Gender, Technology, and American Nursing by Margarete Sandelowski PhD RN FAAN. I did not know what I would learn while reading but was intrigued by the possibility of uncovering more about nursing and technology in care delivery. I was also delighted to know such a book was available on this topic. 

Without giving anything away, the book offers many insights that continue to perpetuate in today's healthcare delivery systems. Nurses continue to be the most involved caregiver with patients. Nurses also continue interact with technological hardware and software tools more frequently than their healthcare professional peers. We continue to struggle with finding the right balance between human care and technological tools to support such care. Nurses also continue to advance the profession through their own day to day advocacy for those whom they care whether 100 years ago or today. 

One of the sentences that really caught my attention in the book was: 

"The caring nurse was the nurse who was technically competent and able to fit technology to care."

Nursing leads with care and the technology solutions should support that care. 

Informatics in nursing and healthcare specializes in striking that delicate balance for the one or ones receiving care. There are times when technologies can be designed to offer algorithmic insights into what is likely to happen in the future for a person or group of people (e.g., readmission rates, sepsis, wait times). There are also many times when technologies need the nurse and healthcare professional's expertise to make inferences about what to do next. 

While this book is not necessarily a beach read, I do recommend it if you have an interest in learning more about our professional history and advancements in technology for nursing and healthcare. 

  I share this with you this week as I was interviewed earlier in the week by a graduate nursing student as part of an assignment for her nursing informatics course. I am often asked to participate in these assignments and happy to help if our schedules are able to align. We had a lovely discussion but it was the last question that kept me thinking about the future of informatics and technology in nursing. While I cannot recall the exact wording, the essence of the question aimed to understand what I saw as important foci for nursing informatics as we look into the years to come. 

I paused at first because there are so many important foci. How could I pick just a few for the question? I decided to answer it from the perspective of influencing care through this speciality practice. 

As the largest group of healthcare professionals in the US (4M+), nurses have the opportunity to drive what the future of their relationship is with new technologies. This can be done through influential educational programs, involvement in care delivery decision making across all nursing levels within an organization and forecasting design needs for new health IT product development. Informatics nurses are essential to support such efforts for nursing but also for their healthcare professional peers, patients and families. 

From the back cover of Devices and Desires: 
"Nursing and technology have been inexorably linked since the beginning of trained nursing in United States in the late 19th century. Whether or not they thought of the devices they used as technology, nurses have necessarily used a variety of tools, instruments, and machines - from thermometers to cardiac monitors- to appraise, treat and comfort patients." 



~ Dr. Kelley


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