Nurses have one of the toughest jobs in the world. As for me, I doubt I could do what they do for 30 minutes, much less an entire shift.
And of course, it doesn’t help that half the hospital world doesn’t appreciate them particularly, especially at salary review time. So please rest assured that the following is not a needless slam on the nursing world.
That being said, what I saw tonight in a Maryland hospital ED was appalling. Either the nurse in question was way, way out of line, or someone in IT should have their head examined.
As is often the case when you’re parenting young children, I end up bringing one of them into the ED now and then. (Being a child is a dangerous lifestyle, especially when you’re a venturesome, intelligent kid!) And tonight was one of those times.
The ED was humming, with patients practically stacked in the hallways awaiting triage. Not surprisingly, nurses were jumping like the proverbial longtailed cat. But when my child and I were called back, I was still shocked by what I saw.
When the triage nurse asked my kid to step on the scale, she wrote the result on her hand. Then she measured his height. She recorded that on her palm, as well. As she took his blood pressure, pulse ox and temperature, she transferred the data from her palm to a yellow sticky, and then into the EMR.
In my view, transferring data via sneakernet — heck, palmnet — is something that should never happen if you want accurate data in your EMR. So why, for heaven’s sake, hasn’t IT provided overworked nurses like ours with a COW or wall-mounted terminal or tablet they can use to capture data when away from the triage desk? Otherwise, given the pace at which nurses work, what does CIO think will happen?
While I’m not happy with the way nurse X handled things, I imagine she’s just adapting to an impossible situation. What’s more, I’m betting that her system is no more or less accurate than manual data entry if she’s very careful with what she does.
But ultimately, hospitals simply can’t allow this kind of thing to happen. Imagine the liability it would face if careless data transfer led to a needless error in care? The very thought makes me cringe.
The moral of the story, as I see it, is that point of care devices are an absolute necessity these days, not a “nice to have” investment. Sure, picking among various options is a trying exercise, and IT leaders may have to try out a few form factors before they find solutions that work. But let’s not kid ourselves: it’s something that has to happen.
What’s the point of investing a year’s revenue in an EMR if your frontline nurses are fudging data entry?