New technology and nurses

Richard Gough, Ruth Ballardie, Pat Brewer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper contributes to research into the interconnections between the new digital technologies, the work of nurses and their professionalisation, particularly in relation to theoretical debates about technology and the shaping of skill sets and work processes associated with patient care. The research was conducted in five acute care hospitals, across two Australian states, with qualitative interviews of 125 nurses to explore nurses’ experience of digital clinical technology and information technology (IT). Differentiating between clinical and information technologies and the specific contexts within which they were employed (high/low dependency wards; teaching/non-teaching hospitals) revealed the complexities and variability of the relationship between nurses and new technologies. In high dependency (HD) wards (for example, intensive care units – ICUs), the use of highly sophisticated clinical technologies has made nurses’ work easier and quicker, yet has not led to deskilling because it requires considerable interpretative capacity based on nurses knowledge and experience of patient pathology and treatment. As a result, nurses’ sense of autonomy is enhanced. In lower dependency wards, however, the use of less sophisticated clinical technology did not enhance their sense of autonomy, although it did make their work quicker and easier. The use of this freed-up time, in the context of increasing patient flow rates, in these wards was diverted to processing more patients and to using computers, rather than on direct patient care. The introduction of new IT systems, without any consultation with nurses as end-users, has resulted in both increased nursing workloads and a shift to less direct patient interaction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9-25
    Number of pages16
    JournalLabour and Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2014


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