Guest post: Is AI creating a new generation of complacent aged care nurses?

Sherrie Boucher, CEO & Founder, Boucher Advisory Group

In a world where AI is dominating the health and aged care industry’s systems and processes, I often ponder, “What would Florence think?”

Nightingale’s modern nursing theory – assessment & planning, implementation, and evaluation, could be eloquently summarised as one of the very first requirements in a nurse is to be able to accurately observe a person, and cleanly report all the facts which they have observed; This is the same very theory that frames healthcare today.


During my two decades in Health & Aged Care, and as an operational governance advisor, it’s apparent there is a growing concern about nurses’ dependence on AI, losing the crucial ability to write contemporary progress notes – even incident reports.

It’s rare to see any aged care provider using a paper-based system. Instead of handwritten post-shift notes, or Exception Reporting, we’re now seeing auto-populated charts and forms filled with generic information that lack context. While AI tools can improve efficiency, they leave minimal space for nurses to add their own insightful observations and analysis. This raises the question, is the use of AI in aged care influencing a new generation of tech-dependable nurses? And, how does that impact our residents, and communication within the sector?

Efficiency outweighs nursing principles

Low wages, heavy workloads, and industry-wide staff shortages have led to a rise in burnout among aged-care nurses.

From their perspective, it’s understandable why using AI might be attractive; With the click of a button, notes on hygiene, repositioning, daily routine, and even an incident form can be auto-populated into resident progress notes.

Increasingly over the past two years, if we were to filter out all the charts and forms that have been auto-populated into the progress notes, we’d be lucky to find as little as three entries of actual documentation!

The automated elements our team has seen can result in progress notes that are sterile and lack human touch.

Many Allied Health professionals and Doctors are heavily relying on feedback from staff – and, hoping they’re not agency. Consequently, they’re spending valuable time piecing together information, which often leads to other critical tasks being overlooked.

Ideally, progress notes should be a narrative that paints a picture of the resident’s journey. They’re a vital form of communication, providing a chronological record of a resident’s condition, interventions, and responses to treatment. This crucial communication tool can influence decisions about a resident’s well-being, including ensuring high-quality continuity of care.

Contradicting Standard 1.6: “Thinking Critically”.

AI isn’t going away. It’s clear, as an industry, we need to learn how to use AI to our advantage, without compromising on best practices.

Standard 1.6 of the Nurses Professional Standards of Practice states, “Nurses should maintain accurate, comprehensive and timely documentation  of assessments, planning, decision making and evaluations.”

Generally, when providers onboard a new software management system, they set strict protocols to ensure a balance of critical thinking and analysis. So why should the use of AI tools within clinical management systems be an exception?

Arguably, providers haven’t had the time to comprehensively educate their staff, or often lack the resources to put systems and protocols in place. But, the reality is, that the longer it takes to put boundaries on the use of AI, the more our communication is diluted; The more we blur the lines to deliver safe, effective, and person-centred care.

As a sector, specifically providers, are we creating a contradiction to the Nurses Professional Standards? The very one that requires reflective practice, continual learning, and thinking critically. We must stay accountable as care providers.

Education is key: Informed decisions lead to informed solutions

As a start… Balancing humanised care (one of the core fundamentals of modern nursing), and technological advancements, could be as simple as:

1. Developing limited AI templates; auto-populate where applicable, but ensure nurses have the ability to record their observations and thought processes.

2. Re-educating nurses on the importance of how to write basic story-telling progress notes, and their impact.

By simultaneously prioritising re-education, and implementing strategic software protocols, it’s possible nurses could balance efficiency, and uphold the nursing professional standards, to master, both, the art and science of resident care.

The human interaction of a nurse has a monumental positive impact on the lives of aged care residents. Nurses are compassionate companions who support their physical, mental and emotional well-being. But overall, quality of life. Nurses help to maintain aged care residents’ independence’ – they are advocates.

Nurses manage chronic conditions, respond to emergencies, and often facilitate end-of-life care.

With that in mind, if you or a loved one were an aged care resident, would you comfortably accept AI auto-populated progress notes to sufficiently tell allied health or doctors your story? Especially, if something happened.

A nurse’s ability to provide insightful observations in progress notes is the key to providing personalised person-centred care. AI in aged care offers an abundance of advantages, including efficiency for overworked nurses; But it definitely shouldn’t come at the expense of a nurse’s ability to analyse and think critically.


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