How Healthcare Uses AI in Nursing to Improve Care
Are you worried about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in nursing? Maybe you’ve heard your peers talk about their fear of losing their job to a machine. Or maybe you’re worried that AI will add yet another set of tasks to your ever-expanding scope of practice. Relax. AI won’t be replacing nurses any time soon, and it’ll likely help you with certain tasks.
AI isn’t new to healthcare. If you’ve heard physicians dictating their voice notes into patient records, they’re likely using an AI program to do so. What’s more, electronic medical records (EMRs) have been using these systems to extract data for research and patient safety. If you’ve seen automated alerts for sepsis pop up on a patient chart, those are a product of AI.
As AI technology improves, you’ll likely see it used more in the clinical setting and beyond. AI is a new tool, much like IV pumps and digital charting once were. It helps provide better patient care, but it doesn’t replace critical thinking and compassion. Seeing its current uses can help you feel less uncertain about the future of AI in healthcare. Let’s talk about the current and future role of artificial intelligence in nursing practice and education.
Current Examples of AI in Nursing Clinical Practice
You’ve probably already used AI in nursing care because it’s used for research and quality improvements. It can help streamline administrative tasks, enhance clinical decision-making, and keep patients safe. Here are a few examples of AI tools currently used in patient care:
- Risk assessment tools use AI to comb through patient risk factors for falls and sepsis. This reduces the burden on nurses to evaluate patients, although false positives are common.
- AI chatbots reduce administrative burden by answering simple questions about appointment scheduling and symptoms. This helps clinical staff stay focused on tasks that require deeper expertise.
- Remote patient monitoring tools integrate with AI to alert clinical staff when values are out of normal range. Nurses don’t have to continually verify that a patient’s vitals are stable, and these tools work to predict disease trajectory.
- Predictive staffing models can help staff units with nurses up to a year out from shifts. Using historical data, AI can project when a unit is likely to be short-staffed. This helps managers spend less time on spreadsheets, and keeps patients and staff safe.
AI tools are already used for the bedside, and they’ll likely be especially useful in nursing informatics. Let’s get into how artificial intelligence can help staff units and ensure patient safety behind the scenes of patient care.
Artificial Intelligence in Nursing Informatics
Nursing informaticists combine their nursing expertise with data science to optimize health information and systems. AI tools can help analyze large pools of data, which can allow informaticists to focus on trends and insights. They can also pull data from across EMRs, medical devices, and wearable technology, so there’s less chance that details will fall through the cracks.
With all the applications for artificial intelligence in the clinical setting, AI developers will need nurses to help develop these systems. Nurse engineers will advise developers and help with implementing and training these tools for the real world. Some nursing degree programs are already combining AI with nursing education to train nurses for engineering roles.
AI tools have the potential to improve patient care and nursing efficiency — at the bedside and on the system-wide level. Let’s get into some specific examples of where you might see AI in your future practice.
Future Directions for AI in Nursing
Do you ever notice how many of the tasks that fill up your day don’t require much critical thinking? Documentation, looking up hospital policies, and summarizing medications are all tasks that AI could potentially take off of your plate. Here are some of the additional ways that AI could help you spend less time on rote tasks and more time on patient care:
- AI visual recognition may help with routine screening for pressure ulcers. These tools may auto-populate the Braden Scale for you. The same technology may also be helpful in detecting breathing abnormalities and even cancer.
- AI language models can help reduce the charting burden on nursing staff. Several hospitals are already trialing charting tools so that clinicians spend less time documenting and more time with patients (or taking a lunch break).
- Remote caregiving bots may help clinical staff deliver care in quarantine areas. Tele-nursing mobile manipulators could help automate certain tasks and prevent disease exposure.
- IV compatibility analysis could analyze medication compatibility within the medication administration record (MAR). This will keep patients safe and save time for nursing staff. Instead of pulling up a compatibility chart, you might see an alert populate in the MAR.
- Quick summary tools can help staff access information more quickly. Rather than scrolling through hospital policies and procedures, you might be able to ask a bot specific questions to get answers faster.
- Educational assistant avatars and virtual companionship could help fill gaps left by the nursing shortage. Instead of a physical person being on falls watch with a patient, AI visual recognition might watch them and notify you if a patient is trying to get out of bed.
These are just a few of the ways AI tools could help ease the burden on clinical staff. AI technology isn’t going anywhere, and it can be leveraged to improve care. Hopefully it will make your shift easier and help you keep patients safe.
AI in Nursing Care: Takeaways
It’s okay if you’re still worried about how AI will change nursing. After all, this is your career and your livelihood. Uncertainty is scary. You might try getting curious about these systems and testing them out if you haven’t before.
The next time you need to write a letter for a patient requesting accommodations, or draft an email to a coworker, experiment with AI. You’ll likely find that these tools can help assist — but won’t replace — a human touch.
AI in Nursing Education
AI probably won’t make nursing school less demanding for students, but it could reshape the way nurses learn in the classroom, in labs, and in clinical. AI in nursing education will likely change ADN and BSN programs for the better and result in new grads who are more prepared for the demands of clinical practice.
AI chatbots are used in simulation to test nursing students’ knowledge in a controlled clinical environment. Algorithms can create realistic scenarios for students to learn from in the simulation lab and at home and assess their confidence. AI tutor programs can quiz students on information to reinforce learning. Future nursing students probably won’t be precepted by robots, but they might be taught by them.
Artificial Intelligence in Nursing Research
In research, AI’s data analysis abilities will help pull together information and analyze data sets. Drug development in particular will likely speed up because of AI disease prediction models and their ability to classify patient data. Nurse researchers won’t have to comb through patient charts to find a candidate for research; AI will identify patients for them. Artificial intelligence in nursing research can drive continuous quality enhancement in clinical practice.
Nursing education and research will probably see systemic changes from AI innovation. These shifts will necessitate creative problem-solving from instructors and researchers. And AI does come with some ethical and legal implications that nurses should be aware of.
Potential Ethical and Legal Implications of AI in Nursing
Even as hospitals are already using AI tools to improve care, there are legal and ethical implications that nurses should be aware of.
- Beware of HIPAA violations while using AI systems. EMR-integrated tools are built with patient safety in mind, but don’t put patient information into AI tools on the internet.
- Over-reliance on AI can cause safety issues for patients. Use AI as a tool to aid in clinical decision-making alongside your own expertise. Defer to your own judgment when something doesn’t seem right.
- Liability using AI systems is evolving, and nurses need to prioritize protecting their licenses. Nurses can be exposed to liability for systemic breaches in patient safety, so know that patient safety is still your responsibility.
- Patients may have certain rights to know when these tools are being used in their care. In surveys, patients tend to approve of AI in healthcare, but this is still an area to seek consent and offer education.
Regulations and ethics around AI in healthcare are still evolving. In the future, guidelines around AI may become a key component in nursing school education and even NCLEX examination.
Nurses Can Be Leaders in AI Innovation
AI isn’t a novelty; it’s already helping us take care of patients. These tools will help us give care that is both data-driven and human-centered. Nurses have an opportunity to be at the forefront of AI adaptation.
You could help lead the future of AI in nursing. Some healthcare leaders believe that nurses are natural innovators who are poised to be leaders in the coming AI model of healthcare. You can advocate for system improvement, communicate challenges and opportunities, and ensure that these new tools remain focused on the outcomes of patients and our communities.
As staffing shortages continue across nursing specialties, AI tools are one way you can amplify the work of nurses. It’s unclear whether the workforce will expand quickly in the next decade, but technology continues to improve. AI is one way to continue to keep patients — and yourself — safe.
AI will likely change the way that you practice as a nurse, and walking into uncertainty can feel scary. But nurses have adapted to technological and research changes in the past, and will do it again. It wasn’t too long ago that nurses were measuring IV rates by drip counts and paper charting. The technology may change, but nurses remain the linchpin of compassionate care.
Medicine is constantly evolving, and you have an opportunity to grow and expand your practice as you learn new skills. AI will change the way you practice, but it won’t take away your role as a leader in patient care.
Ready to Try Something New? Find Your Next Nursing Role
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Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but it is not intended to constitute professional legal advice for any particular situation and should not be relied on as professional legal advice. Any references to the law may not be current as laws regularly change through updates in legislation, regulation, and case law at the federal and state level. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.