Nothing should replace the human touch


Posted on April 3rd, by geoff in Caring Times, CT blog. 4 comments

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

Something I like about electric screwdrivers is that when the battery suddenly gives out, or they otherwise fail, one can always put it back in its case and finish whatever it was you were doing the old way – with a manual screwdriver and muscle power.

Something I dislike about computers and information technology in general is that when they fail, you’re buggered. Take publishing, which has depended on technology ever since William Caxton put town criers out of business. These days, when your Macintosh crashes, there is no option to go back to the older methods of hot metal typesetting and linotype machines; the hardware doesn’t exist outside museums and the skills have been lost.

It is the loss of skills that worries me most when I think about technology and care (both kinds; health and social). The last time I was in hospital a nurse took my temperature by pointing a penlike heat sensor at my forehead. She didn’t even feel my pulse. Which is all very well; it saves a lot of time and is probably just as accurate, or more so, and less risk-laden than the old mercury thermometers.

But the minute or so it took for a mercury thermometer to register was a golden time in which the nurse could observe her patient; their responsiveness, their complexion, their breathing and yes, the volume and character of their pulse. So the minute saved is in fact a very important minute which has fallen victim to technology.

Certainly let us use technology to enhance the care of older people, and to alert us to when they may need extra support. But let us forever be on our guard against technology coming between carer and cared-for and eliminating the human touch.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.




4 responses to “Nothing should replace the human touch”

  1. John Burton says:

    I agree! Taking this just a little further, that minute spent in communication with the resident/patient while the mercury creeps up the thermometer is when the caring relationship is active. Much as we try to formulate, measure and standardise, and to create a technology of care, 95% of good care is in real human relationships. The other 5% is easy.

  2. Irene Gray says:

    Love this blog. So true and so real. That personal interaction was and remains so important in knowing those who you care for. Thanks for posting this Geoff.

  3. Derek Barron says:

    How quaint, if somewhat inaccurate and fluffy.

    While the nurse had the mercury thermometer under your arm, in your mouth or in other areas of your anatomy he/she was counting your pulse and telling you to shoosh (at least their eyes said that) while they counted your heart beat and respirations.

    The electronic version have their place, they are inherently less accurate than the manual type – so it might be time saving, but it’s not an improvement.

    Proper nursing would still encourage interaction while connecting you to the machine for various procedures like BP, temp and pulse etc – blaming the technology is a poor substitute for poor nurse/patient interaction, like many things technology is only a tool to support care, not to replace it – missing using technology isn’t the ‘fault’ of the technology.

    So in my area we will continue to use to technology to support care, not to replace it – and when interaction doesn’t happen as we would expect we will continue to ask why, not take the option of blaming the technology.

  4. Danny Sharpe says:

    Good point, well made Geoff! If only the time saved could be spent on better and longer human interaction. I suspect the time saved is rather used to get around more patients per hour, or, more likely on paperwork and box ticking. ps… devastated to hear you don’t use typesetting and printing presses any more!


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