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10 things acute care nurses need to succeed

Allscripts User Experience team recently conducted a field study of 100 nurses at 10 hospitals. We wanted to better understand what problems and hindrances acute care nurses experienced and how technology can help nurses deliver better patient care.

The findings will help shape our solution development efforts, particularly in mobility. We shadowed nurses in a variety of departments and watched their interactions with other nurses, techs, physicians and patients, as well as all of the tools and technologies they use during their shift.

Acute care nurses have unique challenges

Our research shows that nurses have very different problems than physicians do. They are constantly being interrupted while trying to maintain and manage their conversations with other clinicians and patients.

Most acute care nurses are documenting vitals and patient information twice, often using paper even when computer entry is available.

One finding we saw repeated in all hospitals was the nurse reliance on paper and the creation of paper “brains” to keep track of their tasks and for temporary note taking.

I make this hourly chart every morning [on paper], because I like to know what I need to do each hour of my shift. This ‘brain’, as I call it, is my safety net.”

They are recording tasks to complete, patient vitals, medications and other information on paper. They add the data into Sunrise later – often many hours later. Unfortunately, their to-do lists get out of date very quickly.


Acute care nurses are clear about what can help

Our team developed 10 themes that illustrate the most significant challenges acute care nurses face. These are also the most promising areas for development efforts. Put into the voice of a nurse, solution needs include:

1.    Don’t make me do the same thing multiple times.

2.    Combine patient information to give me only what I need, when I need it.

3.    Give a clear to-do list – that shows completed tasks — for each patient.

4.    Enable me to document quick tasks at the time of completion.

5.    Let me know when I have something to do wherever I am.

6.    Remind me what I was doing when I get interrupted (or when I  multi-task).

7.    Help me to communicate with less disruption with the right people.

8.    Give peace of mind that my part of the task workflow is complete.

9.    Show the physical location of my patients (and staff relevant to their care).

10. Help me to develop and maintain the patient-provider relationship.

A few more observations about acute care nurses

Primary communication is still talking on the phone or in person. And nurses still rely on paper; It’s fast, easy and unrestricted.

Even though nurses often rely on paper, don’t underestimate their technology savvy. They are very capable users. Any tool or solution just has to be flexible enough to match their unpredictable workflow.

Nurses are never empty-handed. It’s up to us as healthcare IT providers to make products worth carrying around.

Did we get it right?

Understanding our users is fundamental for delivering well-designed products that integrate into their workflow.  As we develop new products for nurses, we will use the tenets above to ensure we create meaningful solutions that enhance their experience with our products.

Do you see these same fundamental needs in your organization? Which ones have the most impact on your being able to provide the best patient care possible? Have we missed any important needs? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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