Telehealth nursing is the rapidly growing field that provides nursing care to communities which would otherwise have little access to healthcare.
In this career, the nurse has the same role as in traditional nursing fields: they monitor patients, coordinate healthcare from different providers, create care plans, and more. However, instead of performing these actions in person, the job is performed from a distance thanks to advances in computer technology.
The nurse interacts with the patient face-to-face using a webcam, and patients send over physiological measurements using remote monitoring equipment. Using this information, the nurse coordinates the patient’s healthcare and prioritizes issues which must be addressed.
As one of the fastest-growing nursing fields, telehealth nursing has a high demand for nurses with both work experience and technological know-how. For this reason, many students who are earning their RN to BSN online make great candidates for distance nursing jobs.
Telehealth nursing is bringing health care to traditionally under-served communities, especially minority communities. The range of communities beginning to adopt distance nursing is wide, but it includes:
- Indian reservations
- Small, isolated communities, such as Alaskan towns
- Patients in long-term home care
- Prison populations
- Inner-city neighborhoods
- Workers in inaccessible places, such as scientists in Antarctica or astronauts
For these communities, distance nursing is extremely effective at providing widespread access to health care at reduced cost. For patients in isolated communities, the need for expensive travel to see specialists is greatly reduced. In prisons, the expense and difficulty of transporting prisoners off the premises to receive health care is eliminated. Finally, in impoverished communities, telehealth nursing gives patients quicker access to a wide range of care.
Who are Telehealth Nurses?
Distance nurses are competent and comfortable using the latest technology; they are experienced nurses; and they have a passion for bringing health care to communities where access has traditionally been limited.
While distance nursing does not require the same long shifts and physical challenges of working in a hospital, it does come with its own unique set of challenges: the nurse cannot directly examine the patient, and cannot see the patient’s bruises, possible broken bones or body, as well. As a result, strong communication skills are even more critical than usual, since the setting lacks the advantage of body language.
For these reasons, a combination of critical thinking skills and clinical experience are especially essential to nurses in this growing field. Nurses who have gone through an RN to BSN program are often ideal for these positions, since they have a combination of strong hospital experience and expanded critical thinking and theoretical training gained through earning the bachelor’s degree.
Since telehealth nurses often serve minority communities, knowing a second language can be a huge advantage. If you are in an RN to BSN program and are considering going into telehealth nursing, you should consider also learning a high-demand second language if you have not already, or improving your skills if you already know a second language.
As technology improves and telehealth nursing becomes more widespread, the field will continue to grow. It incorporates the latest medical knowledge to make care more efficient, more cost-effective, and more freely available to all communities. Combining technological advances with social improvement, it is truly a field for the 21st century.