New Technologies Can Be Welcome News to Travel Nurses


By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Tablets, smartphones, electronic medical records and other new technologies have permeated many nurses’ professional and personal lives, yet some nurses still find the transformation to a digital world a difficult transition. Embracing new technologies can benefit the travel nurse.

“A lot of nurses are so intimidated by technology, they are afraid of it and feel it is trying to push them out,” said Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, author of The Nerdy Nurse's Guide to Technology, published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. “Technology is not meant to overshadow their experience, and there are a lot of fun things they can do.”

Wilson suggested nurses just jump in and experiment. iPads and tablets are so intuitive and self-explanatory, nurses of all ages can pick up how to use them very quickly.

“Two-year olds use an iPad without ever having used a computer,” Wilson said. “It will just work for you.”

Travelers can investigate a new locale, check out restaurants and leisure activities and connect with people in their new city. Mapping sites make it easy to find one’s way around a new community.

“Travel nurses can use an iPad or smartphone to track information you need for your travel assignment,” said Wilson, explaining that apps allow nurses to scan or photograph documents, store them on the mobile device and send them off as needed.

Nurses can also use their mobile devices to help find their next travel nurse job, by signing up for job email alerts in their specialty.

Once a nurse feels confident with an iPad or other tablet, Wilson said, that nurse can branch out and explore other technology that can make their life easier with more confidence.

“Even though the more seasoned nurses may feel younger nurses have it down, they don’t,” she said. “Everyone can help each other.”

Nearly all hospitals have converted or are in the process of implementing electronic medical record (EMR) systems. The systems differ among facilities, but most function similarly, Wilson said. She recommended not getting caught up focusing on the differences or how much you liked the one at a prior assignment.

Putting technology skills to work

Computer-savvy nurses with great people skills can apply to agencies like NurseChoice, an AMN Healthcare company that specializes in shorter-term assignments, including projects that involve travel nurses helping a hospital implement a new EMR system. These jobs require patience and the ability to provide reassurance to new users that they can get through the migration and that electronic charting will lead to more comprehensive documentation and improved patient care.

On an EMR implementation assignment, an assigned nurse might be working with a hospital RN one minute and the next with a tenured physician.

“[These nurses] love to be challenged,” said Don Sonck, director of EMR staffing solutions for AMN Healthcare, headquartered in San Diego. “These EMR conversions are not cookie-cutter. They are all different, and nurses must be prepared for delays, overtime, shift changes, etc.”

Staying connected

Travel nurses’ use of technology is not limited to the practice setting, of course. Many use social media to help stay connected to family and friends.

Wilson advocates for the proper use of social media by nurses, because it knocks down geographic barriers, helps travel nurses to connect with fellow travelers and clinicians outside their practice setting, and helps them stay aware of issues of interest to nurses. She added that deep online relationships can develop, and nurses will share advice. Nurses can keep up with nursing news and share information on’s Facebook page, for instance.

Nurses can find peers on Facebook, through blogs and message boards, and on Twitter. However, Wilson cautioned that nurses should use social media carefully, respecting patient privacy and professional boundaries.

“We need to be very aware of the rules and how the profession is made to appear based on our actions and words on social media,” she said. “We need to be very aware of what we say and how we say it.”

Who nurses talk to on social media is also important; for instance, “friending” patients on Facebook  presents a problem. Wilson said that friendships beyond the walls of nursing practice blur the lines of professionalism and create inappropriate situations. The patients might press issues with a Facebook friend that they would not with another nurse, she added.

Accessing medical information

Handheld devices, including tablet and smartphone apps, can put clinical information, nursing diagnoses and medication interactions, at a nurse’s fingertips, without hauling books around.

“You cannot look up how two drugs interact in a book like you can in an app, because it does it for you,” Wilson said. “You also can empower patients to use it for information.”

Patients with chronic illnesses can connect with fellow sufferers online and look up information about managing their condition. Nurses can help direct them to accurate and reliable websites and useful apps and videos. 

“If we are more empowered, we can educate them about what’s available,” Wilson said. “They can track their medications. The opportunities are limitless.”

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