1st children's hospital adopts virtual nursing

Virtual nurses will soon beam into a U.S. children's hospital for the first time.

Houston-based Texas Children's Hospital will start phasing in virtual nurses in October, aiming to redesign its care model, provide patient support on demand and surveil patients in real time. Texas Children's is also the nation's largest pediatric health system.

Becker's caught up with Jackie Ward, DNP, RN, system chief nurse executive at Texas Children's, and Ashley Simms, BSN, RN, assistant vice president of nursing, to learn more about the program.

Question: How will your virtual nursing program work and why are you doing it?

Jackie Ward: Virtual nursing is a wholly redesigned care model that leverages technology to enhance the way we care for patients and families while better supporting our bedside nurses. More formally, it can be defined as a hybrid care model that partners bedside staff with an experienced virtual nurse who synchronously shares support of assigned patients from a virtual hub.

Why now? Nursing shortages and burnout are frequently discussed in healthcare news. This is a legitimate concern; however, we are actively working to ease this with our nursing staff. Conventional solutions are no longer sufficient, and as leaders in nursing, we need to start thinking differently and innovate. The problem is not going to fix itself, and we have an obligation to explore any and all potential solutions to provide relief and support to our care providers at the bedside and beyond.

Q: Adult hospitals seem to be going all in — why don’t you see many children’s hospitals with virtual nursing yet?

Ashley Simms: I am fairly certain that we will start seeing that gap narrow in the next couple of years. During the pandemic, facilities were under tremendous pressure to find staffing solutions and find them fast. Historically, these initiatives have initially focused on adults and subsequently expanded to include pediatrics. Now, with refined technology, adapted workflows, and general lessons learned from our adult counterparts, children’s hospitals will soon catch up. There is already a great deal of discussion about this among collaborative pediatrics institutions, and we all look forward to how this will further support everyone's mission ... the patient.

Q: What has the initial feedback been from nurses?

AS: Once we got past the initial, "what is virtual nursing?" the responses from both leaders and staff have been extremely positive. Surprisingly, the most excitement and support is coming from our most seasoned nurses, a group not usually associated with being early adopters of technology. We have been thoughtful about introducing the concept, and I believe the curiosity and engagement from the teams is very promising, especially from a change management perspective. One of our early adopters is the NICU, where we are performing our initial launch for care model redesign. 

We have intentionally set out to ensure that this program is built from the front lineup — one program tailored around the bedside nurse, incorporating feedback from our multidisciplinary teams, patients, and families. 

Q: What is your team looking at next as this perhaps becomes a normal model for nursing?

JW: Innovation is contagious. Given the scope of nursing at Texas Children’s, I am anticipating a lot of interest around the system in various departments for continued advancement. Our innovation and simulation teams are also collaborating with us to explore how this new care model can help support programs like remote patient monitoring and how technology like artificial intelligence can be used to help support our nurses and other care team providers.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars