Community program

New community program to reduce pressure on nurses | New

A bedside nurse collaborates via a screen with a virtual nurse to care for a patient as part of the Community Health Network initiative. Anderson and two locations in Indianapolis use the new program.

ANDERSON — With the pandemic, there have been a lot of sick patients, and with that, a lot of exhausted nurses. Some members of the Community Health Network, including Anderson Community Hospital, have implemented a program that he hopes will reduce burnout while providing quality patient care.

VITAL – or Virtual, Innovative, Transformational nursing – is a program in which a virtual nurse assists patients and nurses in the hospital.

This virtual nurse will help with admission procedures, such as assessing a patient’s pain and asking necessary questions, according to Missy Simpson, director of acute care at Anderson Community Hospital.

Simpson said a patient will hear what sounds like a doorbell in the room, followed by the nurse asking for entry through a loudspeaker in the room. Once authorized by the patient, the nurse will come to the television screen in the room and interact.

Those with privacy concerns need not worry, she said. None of the cameras used have recording capability.

The in-person or “bedside” nurse will perform normal duties, but will spend more time with patients.

“It’s also more uninterrupted time. The virtual nurse can step in and help other patients, and I can focus on the patient I’m with,” said Amy Austin, a registered nurse at Community Hospital.

The virtual nursing service was contracted through a company with nurses from Nebraska or Florida. Simpson said these nurses are fully licensed in Indiana and bring a wealth of experience.

The Community Health Network implemented the program from July 19 to September 20. Units using the program include telemetry, which can serve cardiac patients, as well as surgery, orthopedics, neurology and spine.

Patients at risk of injury could receive additional assistance from a virtual safety buddy, which provides an extra set of eyes to prevent a patient from hurting themselves. This help is also part of the program.

Simpson said they hoped it would attract nursing recruits to the community; virtual nurses are experienced and could be mentors for new nurses.

Such support could be useful. Occupational Information Network, a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored network that contains job postings and other workforce data, says there are 1,314 vacancies for registered nurses in the Indiana, according to its website,