Office Of Public Affairs

A New Era for Patient Care

Jul 15, 2007 6:00 PM

As a child, Margaret Peace remembers watching how quickly and competently her father, an engineer, could use a slide rule, a calculating device that had been considered indispensable since the 1600s. When the pocket calculator came out in the 1970s, however, he put away his slide rule and she never saw him use it again.

Pearce, University Hospital's chief nursing officer, is confident that nurses working on inpatient nursing units will have a similar experience when they transition to a computerized documentation system. As of June 2, nurses began bringing a mobile computer into the patient's room to enter nursing assessments, including vital signs, meds, allergies, medical history, and dietary restrictions (to name just a few). The familiar paper-and-pen flow sheet that has been so vital to keeping track of a patient's information will quickly become a distant memory once they adjust to using a mobile computerized work station.

Computerized documentation is the first phase of the Care Transformation Electronic Medical Records project that should be complete by Fall of 2007. At that point, a significant amount of patient health information will be input, stored, and accessed by computer. It's very sophisticated technology that will provide a highly integrated, electronic patient record system. Pearce thinks it will be revolutionary: "We truly think that switching to a computerized system will transform the care we provide our patients. It will streamline systems, and further increase efficiency, safety, and quality," says Pearce.

Change, especially of this magnitude, is never easy and the hospital's inpatient nurses are pioneering the way. When the system went "live," every nurse had received 16 hours of classroom training (24 for ICU nurses), plus extensive practice with the electronic system. "They're doing a great job, and are very enthusiastic and supportive of the transition," says Pearce. "The IT training team has been phenomenal. It's been great team work."

During the first couple of days, Pearce was committed to providing extensive training and resources so that the transition was nearly invisible to patients. Superusers, nurses already trained in the system, were on the floor 24/7 to provide immediate support, so patients weren't inconvenienced by the transition. "Our top goal is always that the patient is well cared for and we want to assure patients throughout the transition that they are going to be fine," says Pearce, who plans to be on-site days, nights, aand weekends if needed. "We're not going to be nursing the computers, we're going to be nursing patients."

Once nurses get over the initial learning curve, Pearce thinks it's going to be a great staff satisfier. "I personally love using the system," says Pearce. She believes nurses will spend less time documenting and tracking down charts, and have more time to spend with the patient.

"At the end of the day, we're doing this because we want patients to have the best care possible," says Pearce. "I think it's going to be a wonderful experience for everyone."

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