Digital technologies were quickly embraced by healthcare providers as primary care visits underwent a sudden transformation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth services have existed since the 1970s, but the pandemic resulted in a significant surge in their usage.
For instance, the number of telehealth visits at the New York University Langone Health System rose by 683% within just over a month, from March 2, 2020, to April 14, 2020. Consequently, nursing programs have started incorporating telenursing into their curriculum to equip nursing students with the necessary skills to provide health care remotely.
Learn about how nursing programs are educating students on telehealth, the origins and nature of telenursing, and the trends we should expect to see with the increased adoption of telenursing.
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Understanding the role of nursing in telehealth
The terms telenursing, telehealth, and telemedicine are commonly used interchangeably to refer to the provision of healthcare, medical care, and health education services using information technology and telecommunications. However, each term has a slightly different definition:
- Telehealth is the broadest term and encompasses the provision of healthcare, medical care, remote psychiatric care, and health education services using information technology and telecommunications. Telehealth services can be provided by various healthcare professionals, including nurses, doctors, and pharmacists.
- Telenursing is a subset of telehealth that specifically refers to using information technology and telecommunications to provide remote nursing care. Remote patient monitoring, teamwork with the medical staff, and interaction with patients and their families are all duties of telenurses.
- Telemedicine, on the other hand, is a term that specifically refers to diagnostic and treatment services provided by advanced practice nurses or doctors.
Although the role of a nurse in telehealth may vary depending on their position, their responsibilities are similar to those during in-person visits, such as providing patients with care, education, and counseling during times of need.
Changes in nursing training programs
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused healthcare delivery services to adapt quickly to meet the needs of patients. As a result, telehealth has emerged as an indispensable tool for transforming health care, increasing access to services, and providing a lifeline for patients.
To prepare graduates to deliver quality care through telehealth, any graduate nursing program must meet the demands of healthcare systems in almost every setting. This requires systematic integration of telehealth into the curriculum for all nursing training tracks rather than just including it as a component of an informatics course. This online accelerated nursing program from the University of Indianapolis emphasizes the knowledge of advanced technologies and the nurses’ role in this.
However, nursing programs must face the challenge of identifying key domains and delineating essential track-specific competencies.
Increased adoption of telenursing and greater opportunities for professionals
Patients and providers can both benefit from telehealth nursing in many ways, including convenience, high-quality treatment, and quick outcomes. As a result, the future of telehealth nursing looks promising.
Healthcare professionals who want to become telehealth nurses are in luck: there are no telehealth-specific certifications required for this role. To become a telehealth nurse, individuals need a nursing degree, an active nursing license, and the technological and communication skills necessary for providing remote healthcare support.
The anticipated growth of telehealth nursing not only means more opportunities for patients to access quality care but also signals large-scale transformation and new opportunities for the medical field. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that registered nurses will have an average of 195,400 annual job openings between 2020 and 2030, with employment expected to grow by 6%.
Increased remote working opportunities for nurses
One of the most significant changes to the healthcare profession is the adoption of virtual work. According to the American Telemedicine Association, virtual healthcare services will account for more than 50% of all healthcare services by 2030.
Many telehealth nurses work from their homes, while some telehealth nurses work remotely as part of a larger team of telehealth professionals within hospitals, clinics, or businesses. These at-home nurses are an extension of healthcare institutions or corporations, responsible for tasks such as triage, processing insurance claims, and managing disability cases.
Telehealth nursing offers new and experienced nurses the chance to maintain a better work-life balance by working from home and having more flexible hours. Unlike traditional onsite nurses, telehealth nurses who work remotely can keep their positions from any location with a reliable internet connection, making their jobs more secure.
With telehealth providing a broad range of advantages for medical service providers, institutions across the United States are rapidly integrating telehealth nursing into their operations. As the demand for telehealth nursing continues to rise, it is critical for healthcare institutions and nursing programs to adapt their practices to incorporate telehealth nursing competencies into their curriculum.