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Empowering nurses through health IT

Editor’s note: In celebration of National Nurses Week, May 6 – 12 in the U.S., and International Nurses Day May 12, we asked two Allscripts nurses to discuss how the nursing profession can influence health IT innovation. Catherine Costa, RN, is part of our client delivery team and Carin Mann, RN, is part of our user experience team.

How does health IT empower nurses to deliver better patient care?

Carin: As health IT advances, nurses are empowered to improve their practice as well. The built-in monitoring systems enabled by health IT and EHRs alert nurses and physicians if a patient’s status changes suddenly. This means earlier intervention and better outcomes, which reduces stress and burden for nurses. Communication improvements reduce the time nurses spend tracking down other care team members, too.

Catherine: From an ambulatory standpoint, health IT engages the patient before and after point of care. The nurse has access to all the needed information before the appointment and can help clinicians and patients be better prepared.

Like doctors, nurses are not immune to burnout. What changes to EHRs would be most helpful to nurses?  

Carin: In a chaotic environment, nurses need tools to help them deliver safe and efficient care. Things like Knowledge Based Medication Administration (KBMA) ensure that the patient gets the right medication. Using mobile tools to bring the EHR to the bedside helps nurses who spend most of their day in patient rooms.

Finally, improving communication between team members through tools like secure texting, notifications to the physician, and identifying more efficient ways to transition patients to the next shift — all would help nurses focus on the patient in front of them. 

Catherine: I agree, and I think that seamless communication is especially critical when patients are being transferred between units. Communication is paramount for continuity of care and patient safety.

What is a top concern among nurses regarding EHRs? 

Carin: Nurses want their EHRs to be accurate, improve safety and work properly. More than anything, they want to feel confident that the EHR will warn them of a mistake.

Catherine: Top concerns are efficiency, accuracy and consistency. Many times, the nurse is the last stop before the patient. Nurses often check everyone else’s work before we even get to the bedside. The EHR needs to be a tool that checks everything with us.

What are some ways you’ve seen nurses involved with designing, developing, implementing or optimizing health IT solutions? 

Carin: Just as we involve users when building software, nurses should be involved when configuring and refining it. Nurses are in the system all shift long doing a variety of tasks. They know the work arounds, where the current design is failing, and many times, how it could be fixed. When I observe nurses using our systems, they give us really valuable insight into challenges that we wouldn’t know otherwise.   

Catherine: The only thing I would add that is having the nurse as part of the purchasing process is key. A chance to select the tools results in greater efficiency and consistency. 

How can nurses have more of a voice in shaping health IT solutions? 

Carin: Most organizations encourage nurses to give feedback into current implementations. Clinical practice councils give input into design decisions, processes that go with the changes being made, and how the system is being used. Allscripts is always looking to involve more end users in designing features, and we especially love to get input from nurses.  

Catherine: I think the sky is the limit. Find the niche you believe in most and do what nurses do best: Start advocating and networking.

What advice do you have for nurses who are considering working in health IT?

Carin: Get involved as much as you can before you stop practicing. Find out if you like working with HIT systems by being involved as a super user or in a nursing informatic program.

Catherine: I recommend you always stay clinical in some capacity. I was technical and worked in a business setting before and during my clinical training and employment.

HIT works best when nurses are involved. Thank you, nurses, for all that you do! Find out more about how to celebrate the nurses in your life here: National Nurses Week and International Nurses Day.


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