Health Technologies

Interview: “A digital nurse is still a nurse at heart” Jessie Dhaliwal, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – htn

For a recent interview, we spoke with Jessie Dhaliwal, a digital nurse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Shuri Fellow, about her work on digital and transformation in Leeds.

Jessie started out by sharing with us a little bit about her role and background, saying: “I’ve been a registered paediatric nurse for five years now, and previously I was a children’s nurse clinically in a district general hospital. I support digital implementations – my role focuses on providing that bridge between the tech people and the clinical team, ensuring our systems are clinically safe and user-friendly for our clinicians.” Sometimes, she shared, she might be attending a meeting that isn’t necessarily digital in nature; but upon hearing the challenges that people are facing, she can consider how a digital element might support people in tackling that challenge.

“Other important aspects of my role as a digital nurse include promoting innovation and service improvements using digital technologies, supporting data collection and analysis, guiding teams to use data to improve patient care, and supporting better teamwork and staff satisfaction,” she added.

Jessie also emphasised her passion for digital inclusion, supporting clinicians to use digital tools and promoting training. “If there are two people on a ward that need us to sit down with them and spend a bit longer showing them that system so that they feel comfortable with it, then we make it happen.”

Getting into digital

What did Jessie’s path into a digital nursing career look like, and what attracted her to the role?

“I trained at Liverpool John Moores; we had a really small cohort but it was great. All of our placements, with the exception of the adult placement we had to do, were at Alder Hey. They have a full EPR system there – I was fully trained on that system, never needed a pen, it was fantastic. When I got a job in a trust that was predominantly paper-based, it was a really difficult transition. There was really limited support. My experience of learning to be a nurse was completely different and a lot more efficient to the way in which I was expected to work in reality – that was what made me realise that I wanted to get into digital, to help bring those efficiencies in.”

During and after COVID, Jessie said, challenges such as staff shortages made her feel that she was not able to do as much for her patients as she wanted to. She felt that it might be worthwhile moving into a position where she could make a bigger difference by helping other staff members to do more with digital.

“There’s a lot of research on how children and young people transition into adult services,” Jessie noted. “Often they really struggle. I want digital solutions that our patients can use to get more involved in their care; for example, even at three or four years old, they could point to an emoji on a screen to show us what level of pain they are in. As a student, I’d often see the nurse speaking to the parent; but I think we should be empowering young patients, and that digital could make a big difference in terms of doing that.”

Working with the play team in a previous role, Jessie explained she had learned ways that digital tech could help patients, including the use of virtual reality in reducing pain and making hospital seem less scary for children and young people.

“I did a bit of research and found the Shuri fellowship – I applied for it on a whim, not really thinking I would get in, and it was absolutely fantastic,” she shared. “We shadowed digital clinical leaders in lots of different clinical digital teams and got some coaching which was amazing. I grew this very supportive digital network, which then supported me to get into this role.”

Priorities in digital nursing

We moved on to ask Jessie about her priorities as a digital nurse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. She shared a few areas of priority, including improving staff retention, and the Visualise, Optimise, Digitise (VOD) programme, which looks at reducing the documentation burden and using digital to reduce duplication. Jessie developed the artwork for the programme, focusing on delivering visual bite-sized information for staff to make it easier to digest and to encourage engagement.

“Another priority is supporting a culture of research and innovation – making sure that we’re using information and insights in the work that we do, like the creation of new digital systems, forms or documentation. Before developing those programmes, we want to make sure that they have the potential to provide the data that matters to a nurse, or to the managers.”

Jessie also talked about another priority around the effective development and deployment of new assets, highlighting the work she has been involved in on building the digital advocates programme, which makes sure that new initiatives aren’t “top-down”, but that instead end users can get involved in helping to create and direct them.

“When it comes to delivering the financial plan, I’m a waste reduction champion,” she shared. “We’re looking at using digital systems to reduce waste, which can bring it all together in one place, to be accessed from wherever you are.”

Ultimately, Jessie said, a main priority is to bring the trust together, using the same tools. She shared that the team has recently run an ‘Office 365 day’, with attendance of around 100 people from across the trust, to show what those tools can offer beyond the basics. “It’s about empowering our staff and ward managers to use the tools within Office 365 for quality improvement,” she said.

Digital nursing, Jessie reflected, “is not all about the technical side of things. There is management and data work involved – for example, sourcing specific data so that we can demonstrate what we are doing to the CQC. But from my perspective, I’m still looking after my patients; I actually need that data so that I can assess if something is working for my patients or not, or if I need to implement something to make it better.”

She added: “I think it’s really important that students know what a clinical digital nurse is, so they know that they are a nurse at heart. I would like more people to know about the opportunities that are out there, and what could be possible for them in the future.”

Skills and support for digital nursing

What skills would benefit someone looking to get into a similar role in digital nursing?

“Ultimately, it’s about being a compassionate nurse who wants to do better for our patients and our colleagues, that is the centre of it,” Jessie said. “There’s nothing digital in that sentence on purpose, because I don’t think there needs to be. It’s about being passionate about quality improvement, being a good advocate, communicator, and educator. I also think being a dreamer is important, and not being afraid to think outside the box. Think of the most incredible, best way something could ever be, and work from there.

“Also, it’s worth saying – you don’t need to know how to code! We are nurses, we aren’t technical experts on digital, and we don’t have to be.”

On areas where digital nurses could benefit from more support, Jessie talked about her experience with the mentor and buddying scheme at Leeds, which has given her “a wealth of information and learning”.

She highlighted that there are gaps in available support, with a lot of support tending to focus on people at the very early stages of their career and also support for those in more senior positions. There is less support available for people in the ‘middle’, Jessie pointed out, with a need for additional support for senior band five and six nurses in terms of getting into digital.

“I have an idea – you could get a digital penpal which sees you buddy up with a band six from another trust and work together,” she shared. “Maybe you could do trust swaps, do a week in each others roles. There could be a lot more cross-working across trusts, which would really help in sharing knowledge and best practice, and it would help with having the support of someone alongside you.”

Finally, we asked Jessie what advice she would give to somebody looking to get into digital working.

She said: “My top advice would be to join the digital shared decision making council. That has been the biggest thing for me, I absolutely love it – they have monthly meetings and there’s a WhatsApp chat which is great for networking and support. Every month people share what they’re up to, and if someone else is working on something similar, then they can link up together. You don’t have to be digital already, it’s just to get an idea of what’s going on and attending conferences and webinars around digital.

“Also, I’d encourage people to apply for scholarships and get involved in supporting your digital team, or in a project in your area.”

Twitter/X has been “invaluable” in her experience in terms of networking and progressing in her career, Jessie added.

“Finally, just something I try to live by: be a rebel! Obviously not if it affects clinical safety, but when it comes to having ideas and putting things out there, I definitely think it can be worthwhile. We aren’t going to get anywhere by doing the same thing. Don’t be afraid of giving ideas that may seem out of sight right now, because digital is moving very quickly – you never know, it could be something that could be a reality in ten years.”

We’d like to thank Jessie for her time in sharing with us her insights.

Also from Leeds Teaching Hospitals, we recently spoke to Sarah Hanbridge, chief clinical information officer for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, about some of her recent projects, plans and priorities for moving forward with digital in 2024 and beyond.



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