Our Responsibility at Tech-Savvy Nurses
Submitted by Diane Yeager RN
When working with computers on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget how many American are still uncomfortable with technology. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project only 58% of Americans have a desktop computer and only 61% have access to a laptop. This means we have many citizens and many nurses who do not have computer access or familiarity. In fact, I’m often taken aback when working with students and instructors by just how uncomfortable many nurses and future nurses are with the basics of a computer.
Based on a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, 44% of medical offices were using a “basic” electronic health records system in 2012. This means those nurses unfamiliar with computers are suddenly being forced to use them in the workplace. As an avid tech user, it can be difficult to put ourselves in these nurses’ shoes. But I’d like to suggest that it’s the responsibility of the tech-savvy to pass on our computer knowledge to those less so.
For Administrators or Nursing Directors, guidance is key. First of all, when implementing an EHR, it is important to make sure all current nurses have access to adequate training. In some cases there may be nurses on your floor who need additional computer guidance outside of an EHR training. Feel free to guide those who are less computer savvy towards free classes like “Typing” or “Computer Basics” which are offered at many libraries. Links to websites like GCFLearnFree.com, which has tutorials on computer basics including using a mouse, navigating the internet and how to do basic hardware troubleshooting (restarting a machine, unplugging and reinserting a cable) could be posted in a public place where the nurses who need assistance can easily copy the URL and practice at home or at a library.
That being said, education shouldn't only come from methods suggested above. For nurses in the field, every day is an opportunity to increase the computer proficiency of your coworkers. Simple things like explaining what to do when a computer freezes will come in handy when someone less computer literate experiences the same problem during his or her graveyard shift. You may also make a point of verbally explaining why you are doing each step of the process when you enter data or click on a certain field. If a coworker asks for computer assistance, don’t take over the computer right away. Instead guide that nurse through the process while he or she controls the mouse.
As for nurse educators, it may be time to consider integrating technology into your daily lessons in order to prevent your students from becoming one of the nurses seeking, instead of giving, computer assistance. Programs like EHR Tutor and other academic electronic health records systems allow students to practice electronic charting without disrupting your current curriculum. For example, a student can complete information on a patient chart during class and submit it for the instructor to review. That way, students are both learning how to chart and gaining experience typing orders and navigating through common EHR screens.
Overall, it’s important that we recognize the gap in computer awareness among fellow nurses. Passing on our knowledge to those who are still feeling their way around a computer is something that can benefit the entire field of nursing, which should be our first priority as tech users.