Video: Experiences from digital nurses – Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust

On the second day of HTN Now, we were joined by two digital nurses, Helen McGuire and Ainhoa Arjona, from Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

The session went into detail about their roles as digital nurses, real-world experiences, efforts to improve diversity and work to improve digital services at the trust.

The talk started by discussing the main responsibilities of a digital nurse. Ainhoa said: “Within our responsibilities we have a link between clinical staff and the IT department. We try to optimise, innovate and facilitate digital processes, as well we have the responsibility of improving clinical services.”

Three examples of their work as digital nurses were shared, the first of which was Electronic Patient Diaries. Ainhoa continued: “We tried to eliminate paper as much as possible, which led nurses in the follow-up clinic to think how to do it in a way that was digital and using technology. So, we can now provide digital patient diaries which are very important for psychological recovery, acting as a bridge; in this case, we invited the innovation director, Adam Igra to come to the meeting to listen to our nurses and see what they needed. We decided to use Microsoft Teams for the diaries, after a trial process was conducted at the trust.

In the second real world example, Microsoft Teams was also chosen to handle visitor bookings which has become more complicated due to the pandemic, as Ainhoa explains: “Sometimes we need to facilitate a lateral flow test, and a COVID questionnaire, we were contacted by senior nurses, and we started to speak to different people in IT to see how we can do it.”

Using software already embedded in the trust was key in improving efficiency, as Ainhoa added: “Sometimes we have many systems that can do the same job and the only problem is we are not optimising the system at its maximum capacity.”

The third real world example shown by Ainhoa related to blood samples and nurses struggling with the delays of slow technology. As a result of the digital nursing team’s work to collaborate with the IT team, a laptop with a scanner and a printer was deployed to every terminal, saving nurses’ time and cutting down the risk of cross infection. Previously, the process took 30 minutes but has now been reduced to just five minutes.

Helen McGuire, who is responsible for the Harefield part of the trust, then took over the presentation and outlined her progress during her role. Helen said: “We’ve partnered with the Shuri Network – a network of ladies from BAME backgrounds, who are there to support people in senior IT positions. [Through] the shadowing programme they developed, we would offer a Shuri Network member time with us to see what we do, a peer supported learning experience.”

Helen spoke of the problems with the title of her role being cumbersome and hard to understand, so changed it from Assistant Nursing Information Officer to, simply, Digital Nurse.

Royal Brompton has also undergone a merger recently, as Helen explained: “[On] 1 February we merged with Guy’s and St Thomas’, so we’re now a very large trust. We are now working together with staff…on aligning our services and learning about our new colleagues.”

Helen then moved on to talk about the digital nursing space, adding that “most trusts now are having [IT] written into their strategy, adopting digital and progressing forward; due to our specialism we are mainly concentrating on transplantation, and respiratory and cardiac services at both hospitals.”

In terms of next steps for the digital nursing team, Helen told us of her plans: “In 2023, we are going to be implementing EPIC as our EPR,” she said, “there is a lot of progress to be made to make us more digital-ready for EPIC.”

When addressing digital literacy, Helen described how surveying the nursing staff and wider workforce helped inform their new trust Digital Network: “We were wanting to engage our staff, across the workforce, to find out how confident they feel using IT and IT systems.”

The digital nursing team helped launch their own network recently and is made up of a group of staff who have a multidisciplinary background, and who help inform digital adoption across the trust.

Closing the presentation, Helen went into detail around the lessons learnt from her experience as a Digital Nurse: “Being hands on gives us a really unique insight to what the live issues are – show your face and know your stakeholders, be visible.

“We want to be the feet on the ground, [for people] to know who we are and to know our names and to know what we do. [We need] adequate time to talk to colleagues – I have time with Ainhoa every Tuesday. This our time to consolidate what we’re doing; we sort of mentor each other, and we help each other through projects.”