The Incredible Machine: A Nurse's Perspective On The Technology Of Our Brains

What is the most useful piece of technology you have encountered as a nurse?

According to Merriam-Webster, one particular definition of technology states that it is “the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area”. In the field of healthcare, we as nurses encounter technology on a routine basis—from enhanced diagnostic devices to electronic health records to biometrics.

However, there is one such piece of technology that is meticulously wired to not only implement quality patient care, but also to assist in augmenting this patient care for improved clinical performances. That piece of technology is the human brain.  

Brain Power

More often than not, healthcare professionals underestimate the power of sheer judgement and rationalization in the clinical setting. With advances in technology paving the way for even more intelligent systems by the year, it goes without saying that reasoning is occasionally pushed towards the depths of our minds, bringing to the forefront the uses of effortless pieces of medical equipment because of ease and convenience.

For example, a majority of in-patient facilities across the United States utilize primary IV tubing with attached cassettes; these cassettes are inserted into electronic IV pumps, making it fairly simple to program the rate of fluids per hour that will be infusing through a patient’s peripheral or central line. However, manual tubing does not have this luxury. If manual tubing is to be used, the nurse need have the knowledge of such information as calculating drip rates and other mathematical skills in order to determine the infusion rate of a patient’s fluids. In places such as the operating room and in cases of emergency, as with natural disasters and accidents occurring during military combat, those aforementioned skills can be the literal difference between life and death.

Of Sound Mind

Undoubtedly, technology has certainly been advantageous in improving patient outcomes. The invention of the electronic health record, for instance, has enabled nurses to administer medications to critically ill patients in an organized, timely fashion. So, why is clinical judgement important if technology is already performing exceptionally? Because, like anything, technology is flawed.

Nurses handle a wide range of issues related to the condition of each patient, including complications and improvements, and are also responsible for communicating these aspects of a patient’s care to the physician.  As such, the nurse’s judgement is at the center of care delivery, not the machines. Judgement guides action and decisions, not only of the nurse, but also of physicians and other healthcare providers. It is therefore essential for the nurse to have observational and reasoning skills in order to make sound, reliable clinical judgements.

Two Is Better Than One

Both technology and clinical reasoning in healthcare play an unmistakably significant role in how nurses perform and deliver patient care. That is not to say that one is better than the other, but nurses must utilize both in order to provide comprehensive care. Ultimately, however, it is the power of the human brain—this incredible machine—that continues to manufacture new thought processes and ideas as to establish healthcare systems that, today, are one step improved from yesterday.


About the author:

Kendall Green, BSN, RN is a registered nurse living in Augusta, Georgia, where she works in both a medical-surgical unit and transplant unit. She is she is currently an American Heart Association BLS CPR instructor, a representative of her hospital's Nursing Informatics council, and Vice President of her city's chapter of the Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc.

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