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Nurses' attitudes towards occupational transformation processes brought about by digital care technologies

Background: Digital technologies increasingly shape today's world of work. This not only affects sectors such as knowledge work and the automotive industry, but also the care sector. On the one hand, many nurses today use technologies supporting some selected and rather peripheral nursing tasks (e.g., electronic documentation). However, on the other hand, more comprehensive and additionally proximal care-related task devices (e.g., diagnostics via telecare) seem to be used less often. From a psychological perspective, attitudes towards technology are an important antecedent of user behaviour. Therefore, in two studies we aimed to examine if nurses' attitudes towards four digital technology fields (i.e., electronic documentation ED, ambient assisted living AAL, telecare application and robotics) are differing in relation to the type of task substitution, how technology appraisal and knowledge shape these attitudes, and how attitudes predict user behaviour.

Method: We conducted two cross-sectional survey studies with German nurses (Study 1: N = 148, Study 2: N = 252) with well-established scales (i.e., general and work-related positive and negative attitudes towards technologies, ease of use, usability, knowledge, and technology use).

Results: We found that it is important to consider positive and negative attitudes towards technology distinctively as intercorrelations were only moderately negative. As expected, we found in both studies that nurses reported stronger positive and less negative attitudes towards technologies assumed to be substituting more specific and peripheral (e.g., ED) than comprehensive and proximal care tasks (e.g., robotics). Moreover, we found that two types of technology appraisal (ease of use and usability) both positively correlated with positive attitudes towards all four technology fields, whereas patterns were more inconsistent and additionally influenced by technology knowledge when predicting negative attitudes. Although inconsistently across both studies and the considered technologies, in general, technology users reported more positive and less negative attitudes than non-users.

Conclusion: If technology developers and nursing facility managers want to help nurses successfully adopting new technologies in their work routines, nurses' technology appraisal and technology attitudes have to be considered already in the pre-development phase. Our study results show that nurses report different attitudes towards the four digital technology fields considered here in relation to the levels and types of task-substitution. More specifically, if core carerelated work-tasks (e.g., direct care) are not substituted, nurses report stronger positive and less negative attitudes towards the supporting technologies and higher user behaviour.

This article is published in the Journal "Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering" (2020).

Bibliographic information

L. Schlicht, J. Wendsche, L. Lehrke, M. Melzer, U. Rösler:
Nurses' attitudes towards occupational transformation processes brought about by digital care technologies. 
in: Current Directions in Biomedical Engineering, Volume 6, Issue 3 2020. pages 1-7, Project number: F 2503, DOI: 10.1515/cdbme-2020-3160

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