Technology is advancing at a rapid pace in many industries, from the automotive industry’s electric cars to smart contracts in businesses. Technological innovations are also revolutionizing the field of psychiatric nursing, transforming how nurses deliver care and enhancing patients’ engagement with medical professionals.
What does a psychiatric nurse practitioner do, and how does technology support their practice? Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are at the center of care delivery in the mental health field. These professionals have trained at reputable institutions such as Baylor University and have developed key skills to help diagnose and treat mental health patients. They may also prescribe medications, provide therapy to patients, and ensure medical records are current. All of these responsibilities can be supported by technology.
Five Ways Technology Supports Psychiatric Nursing
Here is a look at how technology supports psychiatric nurses in delivering high-quality patient care.
Telepsychiatry uses video conferencing technology to provide services such as therapy sessions and psychiatric evaluations. For example, a psychiatric nurse might use video conferencing to interact with a patient who is on vacation or in a remote area. This eliminates the barriers of distance and commuting time that may affect their treatment.
A telepsychiatry session closely resembles a traditional face-to-face consultation, bridging the gap between healthcare providers and patients in cases where in-person visits are not feasible. For example, communicating with patients remotely made it possible for psychiatric nurses to maintain patient care during the pandemic. The psychiatric nurse and the patient simply need to agree on a scheduled time, and both parties must log into the platform at the arranged time to start their session.
Telepsychiatry is helping to alleviate some of the stress associated with psychiatric nursing. One way it is achieving this is by providing flexibility. Telepsychiatry allows flexible appointment scheduling, making it easier for patients to fit appointments into their daily lives. It also enables continuity of care. Therapy sessions don’t have to end because a patient moves away or experiences transportation issues. For example, a college student receiving psychiatric care can continue sessions with the same nurse when they go home over the summer or study abroad.
Digital Patient Monitoring
One of the most important aspects of psychiatric nursing is patient monitoring. Patients with mental health disorders may experience crises, and monitoring informs nurses of the situation. Digital patient monitoring involves using technological devices and systems, mainly wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness bands, to track patients’ health metrics. These devices may monitor a patient’s heart rate, sleep patterns, physical activity, and stress levels.
One significant advantage of digital monitoring is that it facilitates early intervention. It can alert nurses to potential issues so they can be addressed before they become a major problem. For example, a patient with bipolar disorder might exhibit altered sleep patterns before a manic episode. A smartwatch that tracks sleep could detect these changes and alert the nurse, who can then adjust treatment to prevent or mitigate such episodes.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
EHRs are digital versions of patients’ health information. They contain a wealth of patient data, including their medical history, treatment plans, and progress notes. Healthcare professionals store this information on secure servers and can access it from computers. They can also update this data with new information.
One important way in which EHRs are transforming psychiatric nursing is by providing comprehensive patient histories. EHRs give nurses thorough, up-to-date patient information that helps them provide informed patient care services. If a patient reports new symptoms, EHRs make it easy for a nurse to refer to the patient’s medical history and medication regimen to determine possible causes.
These records also help reduce medication errors. If a nurse wants to prescribe a medication for a patient’s new symptoms, EHRs allow them to review the patient’s current medications to avoid potential drug interactions.
In addition, psychiatric nurses can track their patients’ progress with EHRs. A nurse can quickly compare their patients’ current and past symptoms and how they respond to specific treatments to make informed decisions about their care. EHRs enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of psychiatric nursing.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Psychiatric nurses can use VR technology to create immersive therapeutic environments. This, in turn, helps patients confront and manage their fears or phobias in a safe, controlled setting. Virtual reality creates simulated environments, like the Metaverse, that users can interact with realistically. They wear a VR headset that tracks their head movement and allows them to look around their virtual environment.
In a therapeutic setting, a psychiatric nurse can guide patients through specific scenarios to help them confront their fears or triggers. For example, a psychiatric nurse can guide a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through a VR simulation of a triggering situation. This simulation gradually desensitizes them to the stimulus and helps them reduce their fear response.
During these sessions, virtual reality can also take objective measurements. VR systems can collect data on how patients respond to these sessions, which helps nurses assess their patients’ progress. For example, an increased heart rate can indicate a patient’s stress levels when exposed to the VR environment, help the nurse track their progress, and adjust their treatments as needed.
There are several mobile applications available that support mental health, and many of them are designed to be user-friendly and engaging. Patients can install them on their smartphones or tablets to track their growth. For example, apps focused on mental health can help patients monitor their moods, learn relaxation techniques, and view psychoeducational materials.
Many mental health apps have reminders or prompts for users to input their mood or complete therapeutic exercises. This helps them monitor themselves consistently. For example, a mood-tracking app may prompt the user to rate their mood at different points in the day, creating a record over time. These tools complement traditional therapy by empowering patients to take active roles in their care, leading to a higher level of patient engagement.
They also provide a way for psychiatric nurses to track their patients’ progress. Many apps allow patients to track their mood or symptoms over time, which can provide valuable data to the psychiatric nurse. Reviewing this information can help the nurse monitor the patient’s progress and adjust their treatment plan accordingly.
Technology is essential in enhancing the delivery of psychiatric nursing services. It improves the reach of psychiatric care through tools such as telepsychiatry, digital patient monitoring, electronic health records, virtual reality, and mobile applications. Integrating these technologies in psychiatric nursing can significantly enhance the quality of patient care.