India’ health care sector is battling a major crisis. By now, hundreds of millions of people have learned to live through lockdowns, quarantines, and self-imposed isolation, which has pushed many to work from home, accelerating a workplace experiment that had struggled to gain traction before Covid-19 hit.
In my view, nursing from home is possible if we continue to invest in the strengths of our workforce and provided we are willing to shift the lens from a clinical perspective to other possibilities equipped with technology. Some of you may wonder, a nurse is always meant to support by the bedside but do we know, in addition to the benefits for patients, remote work options and remote positions have also presented alternative opportunities for nurses to support Covid-19 efforts even if they cannot participate directly at the bedside and here is how it is possible?
Nursing from Home
The pandemic changed the very nature of “work”.
Work-from-home is the new beginning for many able nurses, as it allows them to continue pursuing their passion from home and helps them expand their service beyond clinical and bedside roles. Alongside, it offers tremendous learning opportunities as the new role necessitates them to develop various new skills and accentuate their professional capabilities.
The availability of technology and the quickly growing acceptance of virtual work in many industries—has made work-from-home nursing jobs more prevalent than ever. Some of the opportunities for them include working as a telephone triage nurse, which is a brilliant opportunity for those who struggle to balance the risks and achieve a work-life equilibrium. This role is created at the hospitals, especially to answer calls from patients, triage their symptoms, and refer them to the appropriate level of care. These telephonic services relieve the burden on physician offices, urgent care facilities, and emergency departments, allowing them to conserve resources for more acute patients. Another opportunity is to operate as health informatics specialists which is an exciting new branch of healthcare and aims to find innovative intersections between technology, communication, and healthcare systems to move the entire industry forward. Other infinite possibilities include using the clinical expertise at the call centre.
In fact, our own unpublished data suggests that our nurses, while working from home, used to receive close an average of 25/450 calls a day/month, and this has now grown to an average of 60/1.3k calls a day/month. The learning curve has been great for the team and they always work with great responsibility and a smile on their face. Top queries were related to labour pains, baby care, fevers, water bags, urine infections, baby movements and some related to connecting with the physicians and so on.
It is Possible & the Future is now
Unfortunately, it took a pandemic to make this more apparent to most. Still, nurses and nurse practitioners are well positioned to push healthcare into a new era, starting with the transformative potential of this pandemic. In the new normal, patients need support, guidance, home care, tele-consultations, home vaccinations, in fact everything, at home at the click of a button. Restrictive physical barriers to access care have ushered in demand for remote nurses, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals to bridge this gap and connect patients to the care they need. Nursing is no exception and remote nurses are providing telephone support, advice, and follow-up services to patients at the same time. They make it easier for elderly and immunocompromised patients and patients living in rural areas far from healthcare facilities to access care.
We need to continue to create leadership positions for nurses with the support from technology which is the need of the hour. Remote nursing is very much possible and gone are the days when the options for a bedside nurse who wanted to grow in her career was limited. Let’s not forget that nurses will continue to provide the bedside care that is essential to treatment and recovery. Still, nurses can play a wide variety of roles within the medical industry, even if from a distance.
(The writer is Founder Chairman & Neonatologist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru. Views are personal.)