AIM: This paper is a report of a study to understand the impact of telenursing from the perspective of nurses involved in its provision, and in more traditional roles. BACKGROUND: Nurse-led telephone helplines have recently been introduced across the United Kingdom, a major step in the development of nursing practice. METHOD: A structured questionnaire was sent to all nurses working in the NHS Direct (National Health Service Direct) Wales telephone service (n = 111). Ninety-two completed questionnaires were returned (response rate 83 per cent). Two focus groups were conducted: one with telephone service nurses (n = 8) and one with other nurses (n = 5). The data were collected in 2002. FINDINGS: Respondents represented a highly educated workforce from a range of healthcare specialties. They reported that they joined the telephone service for improved salary and flexible working. Two-thirds reported improved job satisfaction. All focus group participants reported that the development of nursing skills was affected by the use of decision support software and the remote nature of the consultation. Participants reported opportunities for skill development, although the role could be stressful. All agreed that the service was popular with callers, but the nurses from outside raised concerns about whether telenursing was 'real' nursing and about the evidence base for the service and access by disadvantaged groups. CONCLUSION: Differences between the groups reflect policy tensions between the need to develop new nursing skills, including the use of technology, to improve efficiency and recognition of the worth of hands-on nursing. These tensions must be addressed for the telephone service to function as part of an integrated healthcare system.
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