5 Ways AI Is Changing Nursing Practice

Although it may seem complicated, AI, and its relationship to nursing is quite simple.

Maxim Topaz, PhD, MA, RN, FAAN, an associate professor at Columbia University’s School of Nursing, explains artificial intelligence this way: “By artificial intelligence, or AI, we mean any type of technology that can make intelligent decisions informed by a diverse range of data inputs. In healthcare, AI is usually presented in the form of computer software or an application that helps clinicians to make better decisions about care they provide to their patients.”

Let’s take a look at some of the ways artificial intelligence will impact how nurses provide care.

Collecting Data

Since collecting data about patients is a huge part of providing quality care, artificial intelligence is able to aid in the process by making it more efficient. For example, healthcare providers are leveraging AI for data collection through the use of wearable devices, including bedside sensors, which allow nurses to receive patient information in real time and respond to it immediately when needed.

Also, AI is able to look at numerous historical data points—from lab results to vital signs to symptoms—in order to make predictions about when a patient’s condition might deteriorate. This ability helps nurses respond to patients accordingly before any changes in their health become a crisis. As a result, nurses can become even more proactive in their interventions, which boosts the quality of care they deliver.

When patients wear smartwatches that collect their data, artificial intelligence also allows nurses to continue monitoring information when they’re no longer at a healthcare facility. Nurses can also set up alerts to help patients keep up with their healthcare plan, so they receive messages reminding them to do things like drink enough water, exercise, and check their blood pressure. This way, nurses are able to track patients’ progress regularly, which may reveal the effectiveness of a treatment plan—and whether or not a patient is actually keeping up with it. Additionally, the AI technology of wearables can help nurses reduce the chances of an adverse event occurring, which can go a long way toward decreasing the number of visits a patient needs to make to a healthcare facility.

The use of artificial intelligence for data collection and management can also aid in the nursing research that influences patient care. Through AI tools, researchers can effectively handle large amounts of data in their studies, which aids in their ability to make innovative discoveries about how nurses practice their craft.

Helping Patients Help Themselves

AI can help patients help themselves, which allows nurses to better manage their time. Artificial intelligence may empower patients through the use of AI chatbots and virtual assistants. These tools allow people to find the answers to frequently asked questions about their health conditions, so they immediately get the answers they need at their fingertips. This is great for nurses, as their time is freed up to speak to patients with more complex questions, since they’re not being tied up with routine inquiries that can easily be answered by AI. This is particularly important since, according to a study by the American Medical Informatics Association, nurses face frequent phone call interruptions when they’re having face-to-face conversations with patients.

Improving Workflow

AI helps nurses get the most out of their shift because it can take care of administrative tasks that can be extremely time-consuming, such as maintaining electronic health records and scheduling appointments. This allows nurses to increase the amount of time they invest in patient communication and care, while decreasing the likelihood of errors in certain tasks that may negatively impact patient outcomes.

Providing Routine Care

Another important way artificial intelligence is going to influence nursing care is the use of robotic technology. As healthcare facilities incorporate robotics into their operations, the routine care that nurses provide may be administered by robots, so their time is freed up for more complicated tasks. For example, tasks such as cleaning and dressing wounds, inserting and removing IVs, and transporting patients can be done by a robot. Additionally, AI may help nurses with medication management, as these technologies can assist with calculating dosages, as well as predicting possible drug interactions and adverse effects.

Transforming Training

Understanding the practice of nursing begins with how students are educated in nursing degree programs, so it’s not surprising that AI is also changing the way nurse training is being handled. Artificial intelligence can be used to help schools deliver more hands-on training by enhancing simulations to further develop nursing students’ clinical, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. For example, schools may use AI-powered patients, along with computer programs that communicate symptoms, which allow students to respond to the presentation of symptoms in real time.

But the use of AI for learning doesn’t end after nurses have completed their degree programs. For example, AI can be used for the professional development of practicing nurses, so they receive education that’s personalized to their skills and needs—making the training much more effective and meaningful for them.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, increasing the use of technology tools, such as AI to assist with documentation, can help optimize 10 to 20 percent of nurses’ time during their shifts. When used in the most effective ways, artificial intelligence can help nurses provide the highest-quality patient care—and frees up their time in ways that make them more efficient. Artificial intelligence can also alleviate the stress and burnout nurses feel, which can help to mitigate high turnover that healthcare facilities are experiencing. With this promise, it will be exciting to see how the technology will continue to transform the ever-changing nursing care landscape in the years to come.