New guidelines were launched last month setting benchmarks on what new nurses should know about how, and why, having IT skills and providing data helps their patients.
The Guidelines: Informatics for Nurses Entering Practice 2018 were written by three nurse educator members of the HiNZ Nursing Informatics Special Interest Group and launched at last month’s HiNZ conference in Wellington.
The aim of the 20 page guidelines is to set out – under four clear principal headings – the key knowledge, skills and behaviours that new graduate nurses need to acquire during their nursing training so they are ‘work ready’. As by graduation employers now expected nurses to be “highly skilled practitioners with sufficient computer skills and nursing informatics* knowledge to use new and emerging medical technologies.”
Otago Polytechnic nursing lecturer Emma Collins – who with Dr Michelle Honey from the University of Auckland and Sally Britnell from AUT wrote the guidelines with the support of an advisory group – said nursing schools can’t assume that today’s students are competent in ICT skills.
“I have actually been quite surprised in my experience as a lecturer when I’ve asked students to do something on their computer and they don’t know what I’m talking about. And that’s taken me by surprise as we see them as the generation that were born with a smartphone in their hands.
“But I think they are very used to their devices and the technology that they know – and any deviation from that is sometimes difficult. So we try to give them knowledge and skills that are adaptable to the different equipment and technology they need to use. And we can’t assume that they know all this stuff.
Learning why tools like TrendCare are important
She said that mean it was important for nursing schools to evaluate at the start of the degree programme what ICT skills their students have so to ensure that by the end of the programme they had the work ready skills required. This included not just knowing how to use ICT tools but also understanding why they were using them and how it impacted on nursing practice
For example inputting patient information via the patient acuity software TrendCare, which is used by the safe staffing Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) system to evaluate whether there were enough nurses of the right skills to meet patient needs and can ultimately lead to improved staffing levels.
“So it is a tool to actually improve our practice and that is why we use technology – we use technology to inform our practice leading to better patient outcomes. But we often need to understand not only how we use the technology but why.” Which she said nursing schools were well placed to teach students during their nursing degree.
Collins says for example at her nursing school they get the local DHB TrendCare coordinator in to speak to students about why inputting data into TrendCare was important.
“Because when students go on the ward some RNs say ‘oh it’s such a pain to have to do TrendCare’ and that’s the message the students are getting before they are even allowed to use the platform. So we are trying to create more understanding why the technology and how it can improve the care we give to patients.”
Collins said only a very small part of the Guidelines cover what people would regard as the ‘practical’ side of IT – i.e skills like being able to email, upload data into electronic health records and use blood glucose monitoring technology – with much of it focused on the bigger picture of why the nurse was using the technology and how to use it safely, ethically and for the benefit of the patient.
Following the launch the guidelines, now available online, are to be shared with all schools of nursing around the country who will be encouraged to use them to help assess their current curriculum and teaching and learning practices to see whether there were any IT skill gaps that needed to be filled. Collins said part of the project was to develop similar guidelines for registered nurses already in the workforce.
*A simple definition of nursing informatics is the use of computers, information and other communication technologies to support nursing practice.
Four Guideline Principles
Principle 1: Professional Practice
Nurses are accountable and responsible for their use of information and communication technologies (ICT)
Principle 2: Information Management
Use of information to inform and manage patient care
Principle 3: Information and communication technologies to enhance the health of New Zealanders
Nurses effectively use ICT to assist with the delivery of quality nursing care to improve patient outcomes
Principle 4: General computer and ICT Skills
The nurse is adaptable in different healthcare environments through transferrable ICT skills