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You’ve heard of distance learning, but what about distance caring?
That’s the newest concept in the world of health care these days. Telemedicine, telehealth and of course telenursing. They all seem to fall under the same umbrella definition of delivering care from a remote distance.

We nurses are no strangers to this type of care. There are nurses out there who used to deliver their care to their patients over the phone (and some still do). What has changed over the years is the avenue by which this care is delivered…for example, via this lil invention called the internet (have you heard of it?). The ‘net brought enormous technological advancements in health care delivery and health care monitoring.

Everything from Holter monitors to 24-hour pharmacies to the Electronic Medical Health Record has catapulted the way in which we provide care to patients.

We’ve leapfrogged from downloading patient data ‘after-the-fact, to real-time monitoring of an event as it happens. This real-time monitoring has now been taken to the ‘next level’.

Traditionally, patients who are being monitored by ‘telemetry’ (bare-minimum continuous ECG ) are monitored by nursing staff (as well as physicians) who are with the patient on the same unit, the same floor, heck – the same building!

Well, not anymore.

The amazing advancements in our technology have opened new doors (literally). Patients are being ‘monitored’ remotely. The nurse (or physician) is now monitoring patients and their dynamic vital signs from a distance. That distance can be as close as the next floor or as far as the next building. I read somewhere that monitoring was performed across state lines and even across coast lines! The distance threshold seems to hold no boundaries lately.

As a critical care nurse this equally excites and scares the bejeezus outta me. How awesome that would be to have the ability to possibly stop an emergent event from happening from a distance?! But, on the other hand, how horrifically scary would it be to make an error in judgment!

The possibilities are endless if you think about it. There are of course numerous adjustments and accommodations that would have to be made for every instance. Patient safety would be the priority.

I’m not sure how comfortable I would be performing those duties? As a critical care nurse we are always, always, always taught to never trust a monitor and to always, always, always (did I emphasize always enough?) check the patient first. No matter how great the technology may be, I just don’t think anything can replace your 5 senses.

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