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Wearable Tech: The Future of Nursing & Healthcare

March 24, 2015

Nurses are on the front lines of patient care, providing individualized care while juggling data and deadlines. Personal, wearable technology can help manage it all—hands free.

While none are perfect yet, many tiny new computerized devices—or wearables—are allowing nurses to communicate with the rest of the medical team faster and more accurately, keep meticulous records and effectively monitor the patient’s environment.

Wearables will be a big part of the future of nursing.

With the right wearable tech customized to unique nursing needs, nurses can provide better and more precise care to each patient. Used properly, as the technology evolves, wearables will leave nurses more time for face-to-face, compassionate care. Watches, fitness bands, smart glasses and personal biometric sensors are causing a sensation among consumers (ABI Research predicts that smartwatch sales will reach 28 million units in 2015.), and the medical community won't be far behind.

One thing is certain, nurses will help shape how wearable technology is used in health care delivery.

Will Nurses Be Wearing Google Glass Anytime Soon?

Although Google Glass has been pulled from the consumer market, it is likely that medical uses will continue to develop. The device is being tested in hospitals and practices from San Francisco to Texas to New York. Imagine using it to call up patient records (including images) instantly as you speak to the patient. Besides knowing current vitals, you’d never forget a patient name, no matter how many you see in one shift. Smart watches will probably start showing up in medicine initially, but most of us will still rely, for the near future, upon excellent nursing technology like the good, old and endlessly useful nurse's watch

How Will Wearable Tech Help Nurses?

The possibilities are endless.

They include time saving and accuracy enhancing assistance like the ability to use voice commands and also be alerted about emerging patient needs--and of course, emergencies. As nurses, we each only have two hands, but wearable technology should help us multi-task with less stress and more success.

There will be hurdles to overcome as we help design the protocols that will include wearables. Today’s pioneering nurses on the cutting edge of wearable technology will help smooth the way for future nurses. (Yes, we are the ones who will have to work some of the bugs out—but the result will be worth it!)

Almost anything you can imagine doing with constant access to a secure hands-free computer and communication line—without having to carry anything in your always-full hands—will be possible. Head’s up displays with medical data and images floating before your eyes as needed, will help reduce errors and make complex treatment and delicate patient situations easier. You may not even need to "call up" the information at all, with keyboard or voice.

It's already possible (though not perfected) to scan a bedside barcode and get allergy info, lab results and more. Eventually the devices may “listen” to you greet a patient and immediately show you his or her vitals and other crucial information.

Nursing Evolves Constantly and Nurses Make it Happen

This has always been the case, and wearable tech is not new in that sense. Nursing is always evolving and individual nurses are the ones who push it forward. We have always helped design and refine patient care protocols, making them more efficient and effective. That role will continue with wearable medical technology. Nurses will help perfect new high-tech healthcare tools, making them work in real medical settings and patient care situations.

Wearable technologies with medical applications include accelerometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes and more. You will have an exciting part in the refining of the technology to fit your professional needs, advancing the nursing profession and (hopefully, eventually) allowing you time to take a leisurely lunch. There will be bumps in the technology road, but this a great time to be a nurse!

Have you used any new smart wearables in your work? How could wearables be used in your medical setting? Please share your experiences and thoughts on the future of nursing with other nurses here!

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