Where do I start?

Earlier this week I spent some time speaking to a group of graduate nursing students at a college in Boston Massachusetts. We talked about the foundations of nursing informatics, electronic health records (EHRs), apps, and problem solving in the field.

Each student mentioned something that could be improved with regard to their current health IT environment. I mentioned that each one of them had an opportunity to help solve those problems. The question from one student was, “where do I start? How do I help solve some of these problems?”

Her question was the BEST question of the night. Where or how do I start is usually the first barrier toward moving anything forward.

To start, KNOW that you don’t need to have a technical background to provide a suggestion for improvement. What you do need, YOU ALREADY HAVE and that is your clinical expertise and knowledge of how to care for patients.

So, if you recognize a problem that has the potential to impact care delivery in your area (e.g., inpatient, ICU, ED, PACU, Ambulatory) and is a hindrance toward the delivery of quality patient care, take a closer look.

Take a closer look beyond the technology to see why it may be a problem. What is the issue? Is it a process issue (e.g., workflow)? Is it a people issue (e.g., non-compliance)? Is it a technology issue (e.g., design/functionality)?

Then observe and ask questions. Who else is impacted? Does it bother them too? Why hasn’t anyone said anything?

Next, think about what would be the way to solve it. How could it be made better? What would be a better situation. This is where you should not focus on what you do or do not know about technology but rather how technology could support you in your delivery of care.

Finally, find someone to share your findings with and ensure that you get it to the right person.

We cannot make improvements without knowing what the issues are that are impacting care. Those in the roles of care delivery are the BEST equipped to offer suggestions to others that can evaluate and begin to implement new changes.

Joining a council, becoming a Super User or a Subject Matter Expert (SME) are three ways to get more experience and learn more about the role of technology and informatics in nursing and health care delivery.