On our cover this month, a bedside nurse presents educational material to her patient, which the virtual RN (ViRN) looking on from the tablet will reinforce. While the concept of virtual nursing isn't entirely new—it's been established in the ICU and in outpatient telehealth—could it work in general impatient care? The authors of this month's Special Feature set out to answer this question. In their article, they describe several issues their health care system faced, including increased patient volume and complexity, variability in bedside RNs' experience, and challenges finding experienced nurses who could act as mentors to new nurses. They needed an alternative approach to the nursing care team model in general inpatient care. Enter the ViRN. The virtual nurse care team model was developed by a nursing leadership team that included a clinical nurse specialist, nursing education specialists, a nurse manager, and a nurse administrator. Once trained, the ViRNs—who were stationed in an off-unit location—provided real-time guidance to bedside RNs and surveilled patients on designated units by reviewing the electronic health record and using videoconferencing to interact with patients as needed.
“Transforming a traditional inpatient nursing care team model to one that integrates a virtual RN has been well received by both patients and nursing staff,” says lead author Amy E. Roberson. “It allows the bedside RN to focus on assessments and care that are best accomplished in person, while the virtual RN delivers nursing care that can be done virtually.” Roberson says that nurses have also appreciated the consistent accessibility of the virtual nurse to serve as a mentor for practice support during unfamiliar situations. To read more about the benefits and challenges of this program, see “Initiating Virtual Nursing in General Inpatient Care.”—Amy M. Collins, managing editor