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Nurses Prefer Contact to Computers
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Nurses Prefer Contact to Computers

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. Unpleasant, for sure. But aside from family and maybe friends and a super-competent doctor, what’s the most reassuring presence? A nurse. Nurses are often the lifeblood of hospital care – performing the doctors instructions, making sure you’re as comfortable as possible, administering the pain meds and fetching an extra blanket. But the question is now becoming: would you rather have a nurse hovering over you or hovering over a computer? As hospitals move to adopt new technology to help insure quality of care and to reduce medical errors, nurses find they’re getting more and more face-time with a computer screen than with their patients.

That said, researchers have found that the patients of nurses who have access to technology are less likely to return to the hospital. In late 2006, a Wisconsin hospital tested new software that allowed nurses to access their patients’ medical records electronically rather than on paper. The computer program then matched the diagnosis with a treatment plan (such as a medication schedule and activity limitations) that could be tailored to the individual as the nurse monitored their progress. While another study cites the prevalence and the benefits of these clinical information systems in hospital and home health care, it also found room for improvement in how the devices that house these systems are physically integrated into nursing.

According to the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), inefficient work processes and environments typically limit nurses to spending only 30 percent of their time on patients. If you’ve ever had to wait for a nurse to go page the doctor and then wait for the response – just so that you or your loved one can change a medicine or know when you might be able to go home – you know how great it would be to have a computer in your room that the nurse can access instantaneously to answer your question.

Anything that can save the time of an overworked nurse while improving patient care is a good idea. So good an idea, in fact, that several hospitals nationwide are expanding it for use in their ERs. Self-serve computer kiosks will allow patients to check-in more quickly and provide details of their symptoms in privacy so that nurses, after receiving the digital info, can treat based on who is truly the most needy.

by Sindya N. Bhanoo
The Baltimore Sun
August 27, 2007

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