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Nurses and Technology

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We think of technology as making life better, making everyday tasks easier, and ultimately allowing us to do more.

As today’s nurses know, technology is making its way into nursing. There are new devices making more advanced patient care possible, be it in treatment of disease or helping physicians make diagnoses. Even more mundane pieces of equipment, like IV pumps, injection systems and stethoscopes, have received technological upgrades in recent years.

Electronic Health Records

But one of the most important adoptions of technology has to do with how healthcare providers keep track of patients and their conditions, rather than how they care for patients.

Electronic health records, or EHRs, are becoming increasingly utilized in patient care. While it’s debatable whether they’re still on the cutting edge or becoming the norm, it’s clear that record keeping is moving in a digital direction, and for good reason. The ability to store, share and search a patient’s records makes EHRs superior to pen-and-paper record keeping.

Drawbacks to EHRs

But there are a few hurdles that healthcare providers face in adopting EHRs. The first is the learning curve that some nurses, clinical assistants and physicians experience in adopting EHRs. People have differing levels of comfort with computers, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices. Not everyone was born with a cell phone in his or her hand, after all!

Older members of a healthcare team in particular might be more reluctant to adopt an EHR system if they’ve been keeping pen-to-paper records for several decades. Some healthcare facilities might want to customize EHR systems to fit their specific needs, which may inadvertently slow down their systems or create bugs that will haunt them later.

Patient Privacy

There are also concerns about keeping EHRs secure, especially in an age of increased sensitivity to HIPAA laws and patient privacy. The American Nurses Association, releasing a statement on EHRs back in 2009, noted, “Principles of privacy, confidentiality, and security cannot be compromised” as the healthcare industry moves toward digital record keeping.

Advantages of EHRs

But there are advantages to EHRs that pay off once the healthcare team gets past its collective learning curve. According to a May 2012 article from Science of Caring, utilizing EHRs pays off in the form of improved patient care and better healthcare outcomes for those patients. That certainly should provide an incentive for all nurses to learn how to use their EHR system.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is preparing its nursing students for a future — and a present — with electronic health records and other technological advances. One of the online RN to BSN program’s seven courses, Information Management in Healthcare, specifically focuses on recording patient information and sharing it with a healthcare team. It covers the software programs utilized in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and helps the nurses who graduate from the UAH online program to master EHRs.

Healthcare institutions are already moving toward BSN degree holders staffing their hospitals; those who are also adept at managing the EHRs are increasingly attractive to those institutions.

Learn more about the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s RN to BSN Online.


Sources:

Science of Caring: Nurses Adopt Electronic Health Records

American Nurses Association: Electronic Health Record

 

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