Guardians of humanity? The challenges of nursing practice in the digital age

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

10 Citations (Scopus)


Digital technologies have become a crucial factor in nursing. Given the fact that many tasks could also be done by robots or AI systems, the place for the nurse in this scenario is unclear. In what way and to what extent will the implementation of ever more sophisticated technology affect nursing practice? It is the aim of this paper to analyse the potential challenges of nursing practice in the digital age. The analysis is conducted through the lens of new materialism, a set of theoretical models that understand the relationship between humans and technology as dynamic and performative. According to this view, there is no prefixed essence of technology. Rather, the meaning of technology is enacted in concrete practice. The analysis shows that in past debates on technology use in nursing, the nurses’ role has been defined as guardians of humanity, defending the patient against the dehumanizing effects of technology. This role has been transferred to the digital age, where it is the duty of nurses to cushion the negative effects of digital technology. As an alternative to this outdated role, nurses should be included in processes of technology design and policymaking. Enabling nursing professionals to shape the circumstances of a digitally enhanced holistic practice may empower their status within the healthcare system and also benefit the patient by contributing to a more person-centred care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12331
JournalNursing Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • digital technology
  • empowerment
  • nurse practitioner
  • nursing
  • nursing theory
  • the role of nurses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Research and Theory
  • Issues, Ethics and Legal Aspects


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