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Feeling overwhelmed by the digital workplace?

Written by: Mandy Day-Calder
Published on: 8 Jan 2020

When I started my nurse training in the early 1990s, the white caps were an integral part of our uniforms.

Nurses talking technology
Picture: Alamy

A few years later, I was disappointed when they were withdrawn just as I was about to earn my prestigious third-year student stripes – but I accepted it as a positive change and happily threw away my white kirby grips.

It's not just nurses’ outward appearances that have changed over the years. I remember using orange and blue needles to stab patients’ fingers when testing blood sugar levels, so I’m relieved that more sophisticated and dignified methods are now available.

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There have been many technological advances in healthcare over the past few decades, and while the majority of these can be viewed as positive, it can be hard for nurses – and patients – to keep abreast of the changes. But there are ways to keep afloat in the virtual sea of change.

Learn from others

There’s no denying that we're living in a digital era. Although you may feel confident using your smart phone to organise your personal life, it can feel scary and overwhelming when someone’s life depends on your competent use of complex programmes and equipment.

‘Don’t focus solely on where you think you need to be. Assess where you are and work out a plan to help increase your skills’

This can build up to the extent that, regardless of your clinical expertise, you end up doubting your ability to care for your patients safely and efficiently.

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Love it or loathe it, technology is here to stay, and although burying your head in the sand may give short-term relief, it’s not an effective strategy in the long term.

As with any type of change or learning process, the trick is to not focus solely on where you think you need to be, but to assess where you are and work out a plan to help increase your confidence and skills.

Building your confidence

Here are some tips:

•    Be honest
It doesn’t matter if your colleagues all seem to be adept at using the necessary equipment or programmes, if you are struggling or feeling out of your depth, ask for help. Speak to your line manager, who can help address your learning needs.

•    Be accountable
If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment safely, don’t use it. Rather than beating yourself up about this, direct your energy into increasing your knowledge and skills.

•    Help each other
Each member of the nursing team has their own strengths. If you are a whizz at using something, offer support to others who are less able. Likewise, don’t feel guilty about asking others to support you as you learn.

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•    Be smart
That goes for your learning as well as your phone. There are courses available to help improve your digital literacy; picking one that’s aimed at your level will help increase your confidence. It may be possible to arrange for someone to visit your workplace to train you and your colleagues on how to use specific pieces of equipment, and YouTube videos can provide learning in bite-sized chunks and are particularly helpful for visual learners.

•    Accept the challenge
Can you include increasing your technological ability and confidence in your personal development plan? Set yourself up for success by agreeing realistic goals and timeframes.

•    Be safe
Make sure you are up to date and comply with the latest data protection legislation and online security guidance.

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Mandy Day-Calder is a life/health coach with a nursing background and runs a healthcare training company.

This is an abridged version of the article Feeling overwhelmed by the digital workplace? which was first published in Nursing Standard. 

Read more careers articles on Nursing Standard