Early research indicates potential for tech to improve nurse wellbeing
A pioneering scoping review by Birmingham City University researchers has revealed the potential for technology such as peer-to-peer apps, social media and online forums to provide essential mental and emotional support for busy nurses.
BCU researchers Natalie Webster (Doctoral Researcher) and Catharine Jenkins (Reader in Dementia Studies) found that the use of technology and peer-to-peer communication apps had the beneficial effects of decreasing stress, reducing isolation and anxiety, and fostering a sense of community. The research was part of a larger study led by Analisa Smythe and funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT).
Supporting nurses in an increasingly difficult environment
Nurses often work in psychologically and physically demanding environments where they are frequently socially isolated from their peers due to time pressures and high workloads. The scoping review comes shortly after the Royal College of Nursing reported a record number of nurse vacancies in the NHS, indicating an increasing need to support and retain current active staff.
Technology may offer a sustainable and accessible means of providing support for nurses who find it difficult to communicate in person due to time pressures at work. The research found this was particularly emphasised for nurses working in community settings and in rural areas, where lone working is prevalent and contact with colleagues from the profession may be limited.
Building a tech platform that works
The research also found that the use of peer support platforms could result in some complex issues which would need to be factored into any future platform or service. Initial findings from focus groups with preceptorship nurses underlined that although nurses found peer support through social media useful, there were also levels of mistrust and caution around using social media in a professional context. One recurring theme was that others could easily misunderstand and misconstrue the written word, screenshot chats and forward these to employers. This could potentially impact on their professional registration.
The two-year research project hopes to build on these findings with further research in order to make recommendations to healthcare providers about how they can use technology to support their nursing staff.