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Nurses urged to rely less on technology when observing patients


The chief nurse at a top London teaching hospital has urged nurses to rely less on technology when observing patients.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ chief nurse and chief operating officer Eileen Sills said the increasing reliance on technology in patient observations is “stopping nurses’ ability to use their intuitive skills and common sense” when carrying out patient observations.

Speaking to Nursing Times at the launch of Guy’s and St Thomas’s “year of the nurse and midwife” on Tuesday, Ms Sills said: “Some of the technology can be overwhelming and can stop nurses from really seeing the patient. You can pick up an enormous amount of anxieties about a patient by sitting with them whilst doing their blood pressure.

“By observing the whole patient and looking at the way they are breathing and talking you can pick up that something is very wrong even before their vital signs have changed. If you do use technology, don’t forget the importance of observing the whole patient,” she added.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust will be holding a range of events throughout the year to pay tribute to the work of nurses and midwives and to mark 2010 as the centenary year of the death of Florence Nightingale.

The events will focus on a different area of nursing each month, starting with observing patients in February.


Readers' comments (7)

  • AT LAST perhaps now people will listen.
    I have been teaching this to students and carers for years. What would they do if we did not have all these electronic devises or the power to run them ie immediate aftermath of a disaster.
    Also there is nothing wrong with good old fashioned nurses intuition as this leads a nurse to investigate their patients further to determine what is wrong.

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  • How very accurate and sensible, I recently cared fopr a patient who had an MI using Patient At Risk Score they did not score anything, all of their vital signs where acceptable. However, the only indication to me, an experienced nurse was the clammy skin & the words "I don't want to make a fuss, but my chest feels tight!" ensured prompt referral to the medical team.

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  • i totally agree with the above comments. there has been many an occassion when a HCA has come up to me and said a patients heart rate is over 100bpm. or their blood pressure is 90 systolic or their sat are 92% on air i reply by saying is that the machine s reading or did you take it manually and look at your patient. are they alert and orientated or are they grey looking and slumped in the chair?i say bring back the manual blood pressure where it gives a more accurate reading. i have worked both in the public and private setting and in the private setting every patient has a manual cuff by the bedside.i am glad to say the ward where i work has just introduced manual cuffs in the side rooms. i much prefer them.

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  • The problem is (in my trust) they don't tend to do manual readings as the machines have mercury which is against health and safety, but they do teach an ALERT course which looks more at the patient rather than the electronic readings.

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  • I couldn't agree more - I have also continued teaching students and HCAs the important reasons for being able to manually check and hear a blood pressure and feel a pulse and not rely on the automatic machines. These machines have their place in eg A&E Majors when a BP might be difficult to detect but not as a routine. The hands off approach to nursing from BP monitoring to not washing patients and therefore missing other vital bits of information amazes me. Surely the basics of nursing care should never change? Or maybe after 17 years I am considered old fashioned.....?

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  • I totally agree. Having been nursing for over thirty years, it is vitalthat we return to the practice of observing and speaking to our patients and do not rely on the machines.They can be an aid but in no way should remove the need for real observation and communication with the patients.we need to listen to what the patient actually says to us.

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  • I cannot agree more, again as a nurse with over 30 yrs experience, nothing can replace common sense and intuition.
    Go back to basis, talk to your patients.

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