There has been a recent trend on the part of both pharmaceutical and medical device companies to employ nurses and then deploy them in the field in different roles to support their products—the products being drugs and devices, respectively. Given the clinical background and medical knowledge of nurses, this has been a win-win situation for everyone, including the end users of the products, such as patients and healthcare teams and professionals. For medical device companies that have overlooked the trend, it’s something that needs to be given some serious thought since nurse educator services can have a meaningful and lasting impact on medical device utilization rates.
Who is a nurse educator?
The term ‘nurse educator’ is pretty overarching and often interpreted in multiple ways. It could mean a nurse who is an educator or the other way round, an educator who teaches nurses. In fact, it has been used in both these senses. Since educators training nurses are usually nurses themselves, a nurse educator is typically a nurse, but the recipients of the education and training could be nurses as well as a whole range of other individuals and professionals, including healthcare professionals, patients, caregivers, and general members of the community.
Some other terms used to describe a nurse educator are clinical healthcare educator, clinical nurse educator, patient navigator, nurse advisor, patient services liaison, and nursing professional development specialist.
The varied roles of a nurse educator include
- Training nursing staff—nurse educators are employed at hospitals and healthcare institutions to train and teach other nurses as part of continuing medical education efforts and keeping their skills and knowledge up to date.
- Patient education—is a basic and vital function of nurse educators. Patient health outcomes always change for the better when they have a fuller understanding of their conditions and treatment options.
- Caregiver counseling—a well-informed caregiver is a well-equipped caregiver. Nurse educators can prepare caregivers to look after the needs of patients in the best way possible.
- Training healthcare teams—helps to keep healthcare teams and professionals up to speed on the latest medical and technological developments as well as evidence-based modifications to treatment approaches for different conditions.
- Community health awareness—increasing community health awareness is a crucial activity of health educators, including expanding public awareness about vaccination, screening, chronic illnesses, and endemic diseases.
- Pharmaceutical support—pharmaceutical companies can employ nurse educators in conjunction with certain drugs to increase awareness on the proper use and indications for them as well as appropriating feedback regarding uptake and adverse events.
- Medical device outreach—nurse educators can prove indispensible throughout the life cycle of a medical device, right from its inception and development through its deployment and effective utilization.
For the rest of this article, we focus only on nurse educators within the context of the medical device industry.
What are nurse educator services?
Medical device companies understand the impact that nurses can make on the reception and adoption of their devices and disposables. Nurses are always seen differently than the sales and marketing personnel associated with medical products. Their medical knowledge and clinical experience gives them an air of authority on health matters. Furthermore, the nursing profession itself carries with it a perception of trust and empathy in the minds of patients, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals. So, when a nurse describes and demonstrates the function and utility of a medical device, it’s always received with more understanding and enthusiasm than when the same is done by a salesperson. Medical device manufacturers and distributors fully appreciate the implications of this and hence the recent rising trend to involve nurses in processes. When companies hire nurses to act as liaisons for their medical devices, the umbrella term for such services is ‘nurse educator services.’ Nurse educator services can be an in-house team of directly employed nurse educators trained in specific devices or the services can be outsourced to third parties who specialize in the delivery of nurse educator services.
How do they influence medical device utilization rates?
To understand how nurse educator services can influence medical device utilization rates, let’s review some pertinent factors that come into play when considering the adoption and utilization of medical devices.
Factors affecting medical device utilization rates
In their in-depth article regarding healthcare technology management, Lenel et al. provide a good description of the factors that affect the life cycle and utilization of medical devices. The following graphic is based on that source.
Figure 1. Medical device life cycle, utilization, and management.
To assess the potential impact that nurse educator services can have, we have highlighted in green the areas where they can make a positive contribution:
Figure 2. Areas where nurse educator services can have a positive influence (shown in green).
The impact of nurse educator services
As shown above, nurse educator services can influence medical device utilization rates by having a meaningful impact at multiple levels of the device cycle. To summarize, nurse educator services can contribute during
- Planning and assessment
- Installation and commissioning
- Training and skill development
- Operation and safety
- Creating awareness
- Monitoring and evaluation
Nurse educator services can perform these diverse functions at the production facility, during research and development sessions, in hospital and clinical settings, and in the homes of patients.
The most important role of nurse educator services remains the training and education of healthcare teams and professionals as well as patients and their caregivers regarding the best use of medical devices. Through this role, nurse educators can make the adoption of devices convenient and constructive for users, thereby ensuring a steady rise in utilization rates. For a patient, no one can explain to them the purpose and advantage of using a particular device in more emphatic yet empathetic terms than a nurse.
How can you leverage this to your advantage?
Nurse educator services are essential for the successful deployment and adoption of medical devices and disposables. Medical device companies that haven’t tapped into this unique resource are missing out on some real dividends in terms of business and brand growth and penetration. Nurse educators not only facilitate end users on the effective and appropriate use of devices, they give important feedback to sponsors regarding the uptake and utility of their devices. This feedback can be incorporated in the development of new devices or upgraded versions of existing devices. Nurse educators are a great channel of communication between device developers and end users.
For medical device companies that acknowledge the crucial role of nurse educator services, accessing and benefitting from such services need not be a herculean effort in terms of building a team of nurses from the ground up and then testing them out in the field to check if the experiment works out for them. We at BHN have a nationwide network of highly qualified nurses already in place who have accumulated decades of experience dealing with medical devices. What we offer is a ready-made solution and the best part is that it’s pay-as-you-go. You only pay for the services rendered and for mutually agreed tasks and time frames. There is no retainer, no long-term commitments. And you are saved the trouble of creating your own team and keeping them on payroll even when they might not be consistently needed. So, next time you think about nurse educator services, think about us.
- Lenel A et al. How to organize a system of healthcare technology management. ‘How to Manage’ series of health care technology guides no. 1. St Albans, Ziken International (Health Partners International), 2005.
- World Health Organization. (2010). Increasing complexity of medical technology and consequences for training and outcome of care: background paper 4, August 2010. World Health Organization.