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Nursing and Telemedicine

By February 12, 2010Commentary

Two articles give a glimpse at the role of nurses in telemedicine delivery.  In the first article, the authors explore how nurses who are remote from a patient convey some of the typical attributes of a nurse such as caring and empathy.   These nurses are generally in contact with the patient by phone, the internet or sometimes by video.  Without an ability to touch, and in many cases to see or be seen by the patient, nurses need to develop new methods to convey caring.  These methods included getting to know the patient and his or her needs thoroughly, listening carefully to the patient, communicating in a manner that conveys empathy and staying connected.  Attributes that nurses found helpful to transmit caring were honesty, dependability, competence and empowerment.  (Telemedicine Article)

In the second article, the nurses are on site at a medical facility with the patient, but physicians are remote.  In this context the nurses do many of the information gathering tasks they would perform in the typical physician office and interface with a physician off site when appropriate.  Some of the settings described include a veteran’s clinic in rural Montana, a medical ship in the Hawaiian islands and prisons.  In each setting, the nurses interact directly with the patients with no physicians present.  The cost savings are significant, with no apparent decline in quality.  It is even more important than usual for the nurses to be alert for diagnostic and other information which might not be apparent to the distant physician.  (Telemedicine Article II) (Abstract only)

As telemedicine continues to expand in a variety of forms, health care professionals will need to be cognizant of the differences in the patient interaction.  Caring and empathy, or their opposite, are very important aspects of the often emotionally-charged receipt of health care services, and research has shown that caring may have therapeutic benefits. Research such as that reflected in these articles is helpful to gather information for training health professionals in their telemedicine practice.

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