As new technology for 3D printing is exploding, many industries are already taking advantage of it: aerospace, auto, education, architecture, manufacturing, and military, to name a few. The medical world has also benefitted from 3D printing innovations tremendously in recent years. For instance, now that printers can construct with powdered metals layer-by-layer, they can produce smaller, more complicated instruments custom-made for surgical patients.
Learning how 3D printing is advancing healthcare is especially exciting for nurses, who can look forward to better tools to make their jobs more efficient and more effective, as well as provide better patient care. Above all, it will facilitate better treatments and comforts for their patients.
One of the more miraculous advances has been using 3D printers to produce replicas of biological organs. Real tissue, when applied to a flexible gelatin structure, can make it a viable organ that can be attached to blood vessels and integrated into the body. If this becomes approved for human use, it will revolutionize transplants. More patients will receive viable organs, and nurses can expect new responsibilities.
Prostheses are already vastly improved, now that 3D printers can produce them with better and more comfortable fits according to individual needs. Nurses can expect more advances in smaller implants, such as windpipe splints for children, and jawbones accurately created for each patient. Nurses often work with implanted ports to drain fluids and administer medication. Now, 3D printing can make those parts more personalized. As a patient’s comfort increases, the nurse’s job gets easier.
Communication with families
Models of organs and body parts—specifically printed to reproduce the patient’s—are valuable tools for concerned loved ones who don’t speak English or want to better understand procedures they will have. Nurses can explain a patient’s status with 3D visuals or demonstrate upcoming surgeries. Worry-stricken family members may even feel more in control of their situations.
Applications for elder care
One of the more unexpected materials in 3D printing? Food. This can have a tremendous impact on older patients who have difficulty chewing or swallowing, also known as dysphagia. Sufferers don’t have a lot of motivation to eat pureed foods similar to baby food, but nurses might have an easier time with 3D-printed meals that are more appetizing. Pureed foods can be mixed with solidifying agents and recreated in their original form. Elderly patients can eat food that looks like what they’re used to, which may help them achieve better nutrition.
As we learn how 3D printing is advancing health care, one major result is clear: nurses will be able to give better care to more patients. In the worst-case scenario, this will ease nurse shortages and increased workloads. In a best-case scenario, nurses will have more time to give quality care.
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