Latest Thinking

Nurses: A Key Driving Force of Innovation

May 10, 2016

Diane Bouchard
General Manager,
Clinical Solutions and Services
TELUS Health

Who hasn’t required the services of a nurse at one point or another? Each and every day, no fewer than 383,0001 nursing professionals provide care and advice to thousands of patients across the country, representing nearly 50% of the system’s health care providers.2 For hundreds of years, these frontline professionals have stood out for their unwavering empathy, availability and support.

In Canada, we have seen the nursing profession progress since the early 17th century.3 Nurses first worked within religious orders, providing at-home care while working to develop a nationwide hospital network. They were pillars in the fight against major epidemics, played a key role in the great wars that marked our history and, above all, have been frontline workers since the dawn of their profession.

At the forefront of technological developments

Nurses are often the first to embrace innovations in the world of medicine. New treatments and protocols, sophisticated investigative technology, electronic clinical data collection and clinical intervention methods that balance multidisciplinarity with increasingly complex patient realities are an essential part of their already full daily routines.

In the face of numerous technological innovations, nursing professionals are at the forefront when it comes to implementing new, more efficient care delivery solutions. One of the most promising advances is the virtualization of interventions with vulnerable patients via remote monitoring, which creates an entirely new way of interacting with patients and their loved ones in a primary care setting. With the growth of frontline clinics and increased importance on patients having a family physician and accessing care in their community first, the workflow of health care teams continues to make a lot of progress. Nurses can now manage tasks such as taking measurements and vital signs, which were previously exclusive to physicians. This is at least partly due to the digitization of medical records, which optimizes the time the physician can spend with the patient.

Nurses contribute in many ways to the improvement of people’s health in the community. They are leaders of changes that support health in our societies and have always played key roles in preventing disease and promoting health. The advent of superclinics and computerization has given increased importance to their role in patient information management and in optimizing clinical performance. The way they work with physicians is increasingly collaborative, and the scope of their practice is expanding.

Similarly, nursing professionals play a fundamental role in acute care, where the links among measurement instruments, diagnostic systems and computerized clinical records are becoming digital.

At the heart of operational changes

Beyond the advancement of tools available, the profession itself has changed drastically in recent years. On the one hand, nurses are working with patients who are better informed and more aware of healthy lifestyles than ever. On the other hand, these patients are also experiencing increasingly serious situations of distress, such as aging, loneliness, multiple concurrent illnesses and poverty, not to mention burnout on the part of natural caregivers. In Quebec, the nursing workforce in frontline care grew by 8% between 2008 and 2014 alone, which is evidence that their work is vital.4

Many provinces are also reconfiguring the health care network, which pushes nursing professionals to adapt once again. Extended geographic coverage, expanded roles and specialized interventions are only a few examples of the fact that the reality of nursing is already in flux. In addition to being behind the success of many major health care game-changers, the inherent adaptability of nurses has made them the driver of health care innovation in medical practice.

A vital force to be recognized

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