Smart watch could help nurses monitor stress, increase efficiency

hands working a smart phone app

Image: Dwight Look College of Engineering

Farzan Sasangohar, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Dwight Look College of Engineering, is working to help nurses manage their workload by utilizing a smart watch to monitor nurses’ well-being and deliver an overall observation of a unit’s workload and stress level.

“This project is a continuation of my previous research on developing a technology to mitigate unnecessary interruptions to nurses in the ICU,” Sasangohar said. “One of the limitations of the technology we developed was that nurses had to push one of the buttons or a foot pedal to turn on a display that indicated their availability to handle interruptions.”

Several of the participating nurses reportedly experienced difficulty growing accustomed to the extra step involved in engaging the display. The compliance rate of the initial prototype was very low. The nurses engaged the tool without being prompted in only 31 percent of all high-severity tasks.

“In this research we are investigating ways to make this task easier by introducing automation,” Sasangohar said. “Using smart wearable sensing the system can identify periods of high workload or stress and can turn the display on or off.”

The work is still in the prototyping phase, but will ultimately result in an intelligent system that automatically collects information from nurses about their stress and workload levels and communicates this information to several displays that inform their colleagues about their availability status.

“The system will track key biometric data to identify changes in stress and workload across nursing shifts and critical tasks,” Sasangohar explained. “This information will then be sent to a display that indicates a nurse’s availability.”

Sasangohar and his students are not only designing the watch, but the entire intelligent system that picks up the information from nurses and sends it to other parts of the system wirelessly.

“An example of other parts of the system are displays on top of each ICU door which provide information about the availability of that nurse,” Sasangohar said. “If you know the nurses are going through high periods of workload and that information is processed by our microsystem, the display would automatically show the do not disturb or do not interrupt message outside of the room they are working in.”

More at the Dwight Look College of Engineering