AI technology: A promising aid in nursing education and beyond

UF College of Nursing Dr. Lisiane Pruinelli's photo on a title card with orange and blue liniar graphics.

Nurses would probably be more satisfied, experience less burnout and stay in the profession longer if they had broad access to AI, according to Lisiane Pruinelli, PhD, MS, RN, FAMIA, associate professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing. 

“Many nurses leave the profession because of all the heavy work involved and the wear and tear on the body,” said Pruinelli who has worked extensively with machine learning and the adoption of intelligent systems.

Recently, she co-authored an article on ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot, that concluded the technology holds promise for nursing education, but still needs work.

The article – “The ChatGPT Effect and Transforming Nursing Education with Generative AI: Discussion Paper” – was published in Nurse Education in Practice and aimed to demonstrate the technology’s potential in assisting nurses with clinical documentation. 

UF has embraced AI, including launching an Artificial Intelligence Initiative geared toward setting the standard for an AI university. Administration hopes to prepare AI-capable students in every discipline taught at the university. As part of the university’s AI initiative, the College of Nursing has several recognized researchers focusing on AI, including Pruinelli. 

For Pruinelli’s article, researchers presented a prepared patient case study to ChatGPT, along with questions seeking nursing diagnoses, nursing interventions and nursing outcomes. 

“We tried to see if ChatGPT could do that kind of compilation of information and deliver the diagnoses,” Pruinelli said. 

While the program returned appropriate nursing diagnoses, most were not in line with the requested North American Nursing Diagnosis Association – International, or NANDA-I, classification, which uses standardized nursing terminology and diagnoses. 

Along with the appropriate responses, however, results included inappropriate ones and a diagnosis not in the NANDA-I. Also, diagnosis codes were not correct.     

“ChatGPT got kind of a little bit lost and gave misinformation. That doesn’t mean training ChatGPT can’t give us better responses,” Pruinelli said. “The major problem is ChatGPT uses publicly available information, including not scientific “proven” evidence.”

While the chatbot can access copious amounts of information, it does not always return the most accurate information.

ChatGPT, short for Chat Generative Pre-training Transformer, is based on generative artificial intelligence and formulates responses to questions in human-like conversation. Users can ask follow-up questions. The chatbot draws from billions of parameters and millions of websites to create its responses. Through continuous human interaction, including feedback from users, the chatbot learns and improves.

Streamlining clinical documentation and administrative workflow will allow nurses more time with patients, according to Pruinelli. The article cites studies showing documentation takes up to 41% of a U.S. nurse’s time.  

While Pruinelli believes generative artificial intelligence will eventually assist in routine tasks, it will not supplant nurses.

“The idea is not to replace what we do, but to use the technology to assist us or use it as an adjunct for our decision making,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how accurate ChatGPT or any other technology is; we need to make sure it is actually the right intervention, the right diagnosis, the right recommendation for that patient, for that problem, at that time. The endpoint is always us.”

Pruinelli also recently published an blog article in Off the Charts, the American Journal of Nursing discussing the nursing profession’s openness to AI.

She asserts that nurses, in general, have been on the front line of change, championing new technology from paperless documentation to smart pumps. Adopting ethical and safe technology can increase patient one-on-one time.  

Pruinelli sees a future where AI technology can assist in stocking supplies at nursing stations and lifting and transporting patients. 

“Instead of transporting patients, that nurse can be at the bedside by the patient coordinating these actions with technology. The patient appreciates nurses at the bedside because of the personal touch and caring.” 

Dispensing medication may be left to smart-technology both in hospitals and at home.

“At home is where people will need more help. Caregivers get tired. They can get confused with the number of medications and when they need to be taken,” Pruinelli said.

But she also warns there is a need for oversight as AI medical technology grows. 

“We have a very clear path to make medications safe before being available to the market. We don’t have the same path to make sure technology is safe,” she said. “My question is, how will it be tested to show that a particular technology actually improves patient outcomes before being implemented?”