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The role of technology in critical care nursing


C. Crocker: e-mail:


Title. The role of technology in critical care nursing.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to identify the meaning for critical care nurses of technology related to weaning from mechanical ventilation and to explore how that technology was used in practice.

Background.  The literature concerned with the development of critical care (intensive care and high dependency units) focuses mainly on innovative medical technology. Although this use of technology in critical care is portrayed as new, it actually represents a transfer of technology from operating theatres.

Method.  An ethnographic study was conducted and data were collected on one critical care unit in a large teaching hospital over a 6-month period in 2004. The methods included participant observation, interviews and the collection of field notes.

Findings.  The overall theme ‘The nursing–technology relation’ was identified. This comprised three sub-themes: definition of technology, technology transferred and technology transformed. Novice nurses took a task-focussed approach to weaning, treating it as a ‘medical’ technology transferred to them from doctors. Expert nurses used technology differently and saw its potential to become a ‘nursing technology’.

Conclusion.  Nurses need to examine how they can adapt and to ‘reconfigure’ technology so that it can be transformed into a nursing technology. Those technologies that do not fit with nursing may have no place there. Rather than simply extending and expanding their roles through technology transfer, nurses should transform those technologies that preserve the essence of nursing and can contribute to a positive outcome for patients.