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RCN Digital ready

The digital future of nursing

The digital future is already transforming the way nursing care is delivered. It's vitally important that all nursing staff are equipped to lead this change.

In 2018 the RCN led an extensive UK-wide consultation of nursing staff to discover the challenges faced by them in adapting to digital technologies, and the opportunities to improve patient care.

We asked the following questions:

  • what will the digital future of nursing look like?
  • what will help us get the best out of the data and technology available?
  • what are the things that might stand in our way?
  • what are great examples where things are working that we could share?

We are sharing the findings from the consultation. We have an extended report and a summary report of the findings.


Overall, the participants were positive about the digital future.

They offered a clear and compelling vision of a digitally enabled health and social care system that improves patient outcomes, enhances nurses and midwives working lives, and makes services more efficient.

However, as the discussion on barriers and enablers revealed, there is a significant gap between the vision expressed by nurses and midwives and the current constraints on their ability to lead and deliver it.


  • some barriers require work at national level. These include: interoperability, shared common languages and access to information to support decision making
  • other barriers should be resolvable at local level: outmoded and/or poorly designed systems and software, poor internet connectivity and lack of system support
  • there can be a mismatch in cultures between clinical staff and those responsible for commissioning systems
  • digital skills, while necessary are clearly not sufficient to address all the barriers identified
  • health informatics training in undergraduate education is hampered by an inability to simulate health information systems registrants are expected to use
  • nursing leaders are needed who can bridge the gap between IT professionals and clinical staff.


  • the conversations around enablers identified the need for nursing leadership at local and national level to make sure that the systems are fit for purpose
  • system facilitators have a vital role in supporting ongoing user engagement with system on implementation
  • nursing needs to be a key stakeholder in the implementation and design of systems.


  • ensure adequate technology – get the basics right
  • align priorities for future development – innovation should address the day-to-day challenges faced by nurses and midwives
  • support and protect nursing leadership in data, information, knowledge and technology – this will help address the first two issues.

Acknowledgements and thanks

Clever Together were commissioned through the National Information Board’s Building a Digital Ready Workforce (BDRW) Programme in England that is funded by the Personalised Health and Care 2020 portfolio.

We would like to thank Anne Cooper, Chief Nurse at NHS Digital, James Freed, BDRW Business Director and CIO at Health Education England, and the Clever Together team for the partnership opportunity and their support in making this UK-wide consultation happen.

We thank the RCN staff across the U.K. who helped with the consultation and all the nurses and midwives who took part.

Page last updated - 24/01/2022