Minimal training on systems and little input into the selection of products characterizes the experience of many nurses with IT, according to a recent survey.
With health care organizations investing millions into IT, it may seem a little strange to find that most nurses receive little or no IT training.
But thats exactly the result of one of the most comprehensive surveys to date about nurses and their IT work environment, conducted by health IT provider CDW Healthcare.
One of the most surprising findings was that one-quarter indicated they had received no IT training on the job over the last year, while another 56 percent said they had gotten only between one and eight hours of IT training.
Despite an aging populationthe median age for a nurse in the United States is into the 50s and there is a chronic shortage of almost one-quarter of a million nursesnurses are largely interested in learning about IT.
When asked what would have the greatest impact on improving their use of IT in their job, 55 percent responded that more training would help.
This survey consulted nurses in a variety of care settings, but those in organizations with nursing informatics positions are the most likely to have adequate training.
Only about four out of ten organizations had such a position, but if they did they were twice as likely to offer more than 16 hours of IT training per year.
Nurses say that they or their nurse managers are unlikely to be involved in the IT selection process. Only a little more than one-third indicate that nurses at their organization participate in choosing IT systems.
Still, they may fare better than physicians. Nurses report that only 14 percent believe that physicians at their institution are consulted about the use of IT.
"If a decision is coming down from a C-level executive and theres been little involvement from the nursing and physician constituencies, its pretty tough to force doctors and nurses to use the IT systems that are being put in place," said Bob Rossi, general manager for CDW Healthcare.
Despite this potential disconnect, nurses spend a significant amount of time each day working with IT.
Of the respondents, 44 percent said they spend three or more hours daily using some IT device. The most common device, by far, is still the desktop computer, which 89 percent of them use, while 21 percent employ a laptop, 16 percent use computerized diagnostic equipment, 9 percent use a handheld device and only 3 percent use PC tablets.
The most common IT use for nurses is still e-mail. About seven out of 10 respondents said they use e-mail for daily work. Six out of ten nurses said they employed an electronic medical record everyday, while about half said they used IT to order patient tests or medications through a CPOE system.
Data gathering and analysis, image archiving as well as claims processing or insurance verification are all done using IT by about 10 to 15 percent of nurses surveyed.
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Beyond lack of training, other chronic frustrations are nagging nurses in their IT use. Chief among these issues are incompatible systems, unreliable systems and limited access to necessary systems.
More than one-third of nurses surveyed complained that each of these issues were a major barrier to their IT use. Lack of nurse training and the need to spend too much time helping doctors on the systems were among the most frustrating problems for about one-quarter of nurses.
Still, nurses are relatively optimistic about IT in their workplace. Eighty-six percent indicated that it has the potential to improve the quality of patient care. And most are happy with their IT group; nearly six out of 10 gave their IT team a high mark.
These results were based on an online survey of 559 nurses working in a wide range of settings, including large hospitals and medical centers, clinics and physician offices, long-term care facilities, home care, visiting nursing associations, public health organizations, insurance companies and corporations.
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Stacy Lawrence is co-editor of CIOInsight.com's Health Care Center. Lawrence has covered IT and the life sciences for various publications, including Business 2.0, Red Herring, The Industry Standard and Nature Biotechnology. Before becoming a journalist, Lawrence attended New York University and continued on in the sociology doctoral program at UC Berkeley.