When Chad Johnson asked me to become a part of the blogging team here at HL7Standards I was a bit hesitant. In fact, I think I let his email sit in my inbox for at least a week (or two or three) before responding. It’s likely he had to send me a second email before I actually responded.
I remember thinking, “Why is he asking me this? Doesn’t he know I don’t know anything about health IT and EMR?” When we finally connected I did my due diligence and reminded, aka warned, him that I had been out of the clinical setting for eight years, unless you counted the advice I gave coworkers who wandered up to my cube and asked, “What do you think this is?” while pointing at a rash on their arm, leg or thumb. My standard answer is always,”Ooooh, look at that! You might want to call your physician. Please don’t touch anything on my desk.” And I didn’t use any EMR or health IT for that.
Chad thought I was up for the challenge. Still, I tried to dissuade him. “Computers weren’t invented yet when I was working the unit,” I told him. We both knew that was a lie.
When I worked as a nurse, we used CPOE (computerized physician order entry). We were piloting electronic medication administration record and we had a Pyxis machine that had to be stocked with chocolate so the nurses would actually want to figure out how to work the thing. But everything else was done on paper. Sometimes it was even carbon copy paper. So I would say that I have not worked in a fully functioning EMR system. But, somehow, Chad managed to convince me I could handle it, so I said “yes.”
Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed blogging because I learned a lot about EMR and health IT and the people who work in the industry. But sometimes I still feel like I’m not totally “legit” because I’ve never had an experience of being immersed in a fully working, bells-and-whistles-type EHR system. But in the next few weeks that is going to change.
I’ve resigned my position as a cube dweller and will be heading back to clinical work as an admissions nurse at a local hospice. I’m excited about this position for many reasons. I’ve always felt that hospice nurses were special—a different breed from the rest of us. And now I get a chance to see if I can evolve to become like these nurses I’ve so admired. I’ll also get a chance to take part in something that was just going mainstream when I left my last clinical position nine years ago, EMR and health IT. I’ll finally feel “legit” when I write about healthcare technology!
Though depending on who I ask, EMRs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I remember when I was a new grad I boldly asked one of the more seasoned nurses why we didn’t use an EMR. She said they piloted it on one unit once and they all hated it so it just went away. When I interviewed for this new position, I asked what the most difficult part of the position would be for a new person. The two answers I expected were: 1) being surrounded by death and dying all the time, or 2) having to relearn all my clinical skills. I was somewhat shocked when they told me the biggest challenge would be learning the EMR system.
How hard will this be, I thought? After all, my generation was one of the first to use computers at an early age. It can’t really be much worse than some of the programs we use in the publishing world, and I’ve managed to learn those. It can’t be that bad.
Yet, some nurses I know stress that EMR has become the worst thing about nursing. They feel it disconnects them from their patients and that it is cumbersome and not user friendly. Therefore, it makes their job more difficult.
I heard similar complaints from my mother, who is a nurse, last week while we were out to dinner. Ironically, one of the girls at the table behind us worked in a medical office. I know this because I was eavesdropping. She was complaining to a friend that it was a difficult place to work because they had no EMR system. Which is the right perception? In 10 years what will I be saying about EMRs?
I’d like to invite every reader of this blog to follow me down the EMR road and to offer advice on my journey. I really want to adapt to and succeed using EMR, but I’m not quite sure where to start. Do any of you experts (yes, this is a good opportunity for consultants to speak up below in the comments) have advice for someone like me? What’s the best ways to use EMR to its fullest? Will I feel a certain way during the first week? What should I be prepared for? What types of questions should I ask about the technology?
I have exactly one week until I start the new job, so any and all advice is appreciated. You’ll also see frequent posts from me detailing my learning process and finding experts to help sort out things.
All this is exciting and new to me and I hope you’ll be able catch the spark and become passionate about helping others learn how to use EMRs.
I’m more than happy to get all the advice you can give, so please comment early and comment often!
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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