New Technology Furthers Nursing Practice

By: Erica French

In the hospital, one relatively new development is the use of a computer on wheels, or COW, to complete a nurse’s or physician’s online documentation. Despite what it looks like on popular television shows (where a nurse will come into a patient’s room and take the patient’s chart from the end of their bed), at Beverly Hospital, all of this can be accessed using the COW. For example, when we are assigned our patients at clinical and we use the COW, not only can we access the patient’s name, date of birth, and reason for coming to the hospital, we can access any other information we need to treat the patient. We can see any allergies the patient may have, their past medical history, a summary of the lab report, and notes and diagnoses from the physician and nurses from prior shifts during the patient’s stay.

Overall, the use of these COWs has made documentation and accessing medical records much easier when visiting one patient to the next, especially during a busy shift. Whether the nurse is administering medication, taking vital signs, or conducting a brief assessment of the patient, having a COW to refer to simply makes life as a health care provider as easy as it can be.


[subhead] The Importance of Vitals

Vital signs are constantly monitored by health are providers in order to get a “baseline” for how the patient is doing, vis-à-vis, their physical condition. The vital signs that are monitored are body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate (the amount respirations, or breaths, taken in one minute). In nursing school, we are taught how to take blood pressure with a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff, by listening to the brachial artery in the arm. However, in the hospital, there is a mobile vital signs cart that is used to take blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, and this is all done at the push of a button. This device has a blood pressure cuff and pulse and temperature monitor all in one machine! Not only does this save time, but it decreases the amount of user error that may occur while taking a patient’s vital signs.

Since we also check the patient’s peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2), there is a device called a pulse oximeter attached to the vital signs cart that measures the SpO2. Although a nurse still has to physically watch the patient breathing for one minute to acquire their respiration rate, it is still amazing that one small machine has the ability to obtain so much information about a patient at once. These advances in technology are continuously furthering medical practice and will in turn be more beneficial to the patients.