Virtual Nurses: An innovative approach to staffing shortages

Nurse saying hi to patient on computer

Nurses are leaving the workforce in record numbers and patient safety may be at risk. According to a survey by Nurse.org, 80% of nurses say their units are “inadequately staffed.” Before COVID-19, the typical ICU patient-to-nurse ratio was 1:1 or 2:1. Today, it’s 3:1 or even 4:1. It’s a significant concern for nurses and one of the top reasons they consider leaving their job.

 

According to the American Nursing Association, nearly 500,000 nurses are expected to retire by the end of 2022, leaving a shortage of around 1.1 million nurses.

 

Many forward-thinking hospitals have turned to virtual nurses to help mitigate the impact of the nursing shortage. Since most providers have implemented some form of telehealth since the start of the pandemic, virtual nurses can be a viable next step.

Virtual Nurse Cover Image

How does virtual nursing work?

Virtual nurses are often remote nurses that provide 24/7 observation and communication at the patient’s bedside using specialized telehealth technology. This technology can include devices such as smart TVs or medical carts equipped with two-way audio/visual capabilities. This allows the virtual nurse to observe and communicate with the patient and collaborate in real-time with bedside nurses for more effective care coordination and timely interventions.

One of the most significant benefits of using virtual nurses is that more patients can be cared for with fewer resources. ICU patient monitoring is a great example. Caring for critically ill patients requires greater clinical expertise and around-the-clock monitoring. Virtual nurses can work from a centralized ICU monitoring station where they can monitor multiple patients in multiple ICU locations from a single “command center.”

Virtual nurses can also help prevent falls. According to the AHRQ, close to one million people in the U.S. fall in hospitals each year. Virtual nurses can notify floor nurses when they observe a patient trying to get up unattended. The virtual nurse can also talk with the patient to let them know that help is on the way.

 

How to choose a virtual nursing solution

Not all virtual nursing solutions are alike. To be most effective and ensure the highest quality care, it is essential to look for turnkey solutions that are customizable and leverage the latest telemedicine technology. The following list provides an overview of the capabilities hospitals should look for.

  • Allows the use of a hospital’s existing devices, such as tablets, medical carts, stands, and smart TVs
  • Provides simple-to-use onscreen “one-click” buttons for easy communication between the virtual nurse and the patient or others in the room
  • Enables audio-only or both audio and video communication
  • Seamlessly integrates with existing audio and video infrastructure
  • Supports quick scaling to accommodate fluctuation in patient census
  • Enables virtual nurses to monitor multiple patients at the same time on the same screen
  • Includes zoom functionality for better observation and enhanced patient engagement
  • Supports virtual rounding and real-time communication between staff, providers, specialists, patients, and the patient’s family
  • Integrates into existing EMR and other hospital systems
  • Offers 4K and 5K displays

 

Virtual nursing solutions enable on-demand virtual consultations between the care team to help inform more timely, effective decision-making.

 

Where to begin

The first step in implementing virtual nurses is to choose the right technology solution for your organization. VidyoHealth can help.

VidyoHealth’s virtual nursing solution—VirtualSitter—is designed for hospitals and health systems that need a turnkey solution that is scalable, flexible, and can be integrated into an existing network of audio and visual equipment. VirtualSitter can be deployed through readily accessible hardware that works on any desktop, browser, tablet, or mobile phone.

With VirtualSitter, nurses can easily monitor multiple patients simultaneously on the same screen from any location. Communicating with patients is also easy, with onscreen buttons for audio-only or audio-visual calls. A simple-to-use zoom tool allows for better observation and enhanced nurse-patient engagement.

The VirtualSitter solution enables virtual nurses to invite family members, providers, or specialists to join a conference via an onscreen email/SMS invitation. There’s even a “doorbell” alert to let patients know a conference is about to begin. There is also a privacy option that patients can choose when they’d like privacy.

Unlike other virtual nursing solutions, VirtualSitter delivers custom workflows tailored to your organization’s unique needs, coupled with the reliability, interoperability, and scalability needed for today’s constantly changing healthcare environment.

Virtual Patient Monitoring

The time to act is now

Having the right level of nursing coverage with the most qualified nurses helps ensure patient safety and optimal outcomes. Leveraging virtual nurses presents an excellent opportunity to do just that, especially in these challenging times. The fact is, we don’t know when, or even if, staffing levels will ever return to normal.

With VidyoHealth’s virtual nursing solution—VirtualSitter—providers can easily reach more patients with fewer resources. Learn why more than 4,000 healthcare providers trust VidyoHealth for their telemedicine needs. Visit www.vidyohealth.com.

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