Citation: Betley, M. (2023). Fording rivers of healthcare. Student Editorial. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 26(3). https://www.himss.org/resources/online-journal-nursing-informatics
A wise person once told me that the job my child will hold does not yet exist. In the world of Amazon Prime and free two-day shipping, this statement holds a significant amount of weight. Technology is advancing every day and sometimes multiple times a day. Take cell phones for example: as soon as you purchase a new cell phone, the next new model is being advertised. I can remember the anxiety and anticipation of waiting and watching for the dial-up internet to connect or the excitement of being online at the same time as a friend to send instant messages back and forth.
All these concepts and advancements in technology take me back to a different time in health care. As a student nurse, I experienced paper charting and electronic charting, but we were in a time of great transition. Many hospitals were gearing up to transition to electronic health records. What did this mean for me? It felt like I was traveling on the Oregon Trail; I was learning the extinct ways of the past and would graduate to what felt like the George Jetson age of electronic charting. Fortunately, on this journey, no one would get sick from cholera, measles, or typhoid, and no one would be fording any rivers.
Fording rivers can be very dangerous and lead to poor outcomes, like the historical charting of the past. I recall flipping through pages and pages of documentation, trying to discern the handwriting of a previous nurse or physician, and reading the purple inked copy with pixel text. Records of this design were not accessible to all care partners simultaneously and would often wander off the unit to the doctor’s classroom at times. While electronic health records brought with them many unfamiliar territories, they also brought organization and safety measures that would result in positive patient outcomes and increased access to life saving treatment.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of watching healthcare technology evolve. I witnessed technology transform from a supplemental tool to the patient care I provide to a staple in patient care. Using an electronic health record, I can ensure medications are given safely, as well as document assessments that can lead to life saving interventions. Historically, I would be carrying around sign out papers with patient information and daily tasks written on them, and at the end of my shift, staple a new blank copy to the top for the next shift. The documents were not part of the patient’s medical record and were only an aid to the staff to reference past treatment and daily care to be provided for the day. Many referred to this packet of papers as our brain.
Throughout the enhancement of healthcare technology that would eventually phase out the packet of papers, I had the pleasure of participating in a group of nurses to develop a new electronic tool to be used for nursing hand-offs. This tool we called the “widget” became very popular in the medical community and was later adopted by the electronic charting software company. The group collectively worked to create unit specific widgets. Each widget was designed based on the type of care each unit provided. The widget allows nurses to have all pertinent patient information in one location and can be used to provide structured and thorough reports to the on-coming nurse. The widget tool is accessible to all healthcare providers and will not be found wandering around the medical center.
Healthcare technology will continue to evolve and adapt to the healthcare environment. As a nurse, it is exciting to see where technology will take us in the future and the positive impact it can have on patient care and safety. The world we live in today is someone’s Oregon Trail, and together, we are fording rivers and paving paths to a new world of healthcare technology.
Molly Betley RN-BSN
Molly Betley is a registered nurse at a children’s hospital. She obtained her ADN in 2012 and has worked in Pediatrics her entire career, with a very short time in adult med-surg last year to help during COVID when inpatient pediatric populations were low. She graduated with her BSN from Chamberlain College of Nursing in 2015. She also has a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics since 2007. She currently works as a float nurse that services the Pediatric, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Michigan. She is pursuing an MSN with a focus in nursing education, with the hopes of sharing her knowledge of pediatrics and passion for taking care of children with future nurses.
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