Electronic medical records (EMR) were a new experience for me. In B.C. our healthcare system is “social” or “universal”, or more accurate it is a single payer system where the government covers the cost of basic healthcare for all Canadian residents. Because the government holds the budget, which is collected from the tax payers, we try to be accountable to how we spend these dollars and therefore “extras” don’t always get priority. One of those “extras” is an electronic medical record system.
EMR’s are initially quite costly with equipment, training, and software taking large sums of money away from direct patient care. Throughout the years, we have implemented small pieces of these types of systems such as e-triage, scanned records, and links to lab work; however, it wasn’t a thing to do ALL the assessment, documentation, and medication administration through these systems.
My first travel assignment in WA state was the first time I had used an EMR. The software, Meditech, was familiar to me as the core programing was similar to what I had used in Canada, although my exposure in BC was limited it allowed me to learn easier and catch on quicker. I did struggle throughout the assignment and probably made several mistakes, but it was fun learning! The one issue (besides the mistakes) that I had with this particular situation was, most of the computers were on wheels. Does a portable computer cause an issue? Not really, but what I noticed was, the computer was “pushed” into the room and it often entered the room ahead of the nurse. The patients saw a machine before a human and many nurses stood behind the computer asking questions and charting. Yes, the nurses did eventually touch and assess the patient but that seemed to be an afterthought, not really what I was taught nursing was about. Sad really…
The second travel assignment in Indiana exposed me to yet a different EMR system. This one, Cerner, it was complicated with many different icons, buttons, and areas to look for what you needed. I found this system to not very user friendly. Although I struggled, I used my smart nursing friends (remember, I’ve mentioned these handy IN friends before) to guide me through the many challenges of charting! On a positive note, this department had computers installed in almost every room. It was so much easier to enter the room, assess the patient, and then sit down to the computer and chart. And of course, by now, I was in the groove!
So, you’d think that by now EMR’s are becoming easier…Ha Ha!
Onto Colorado I go only to find out there are so many more systems out there and variations of similar systems. I did eventually settle at one hospital for 18 months and they brought in a system called EPIC and man that was amazing! I can assure you that looking back, one of the things I actually miss from my travel nursing journeys is the EMR and I can’t wait to have another opportunity to use a well set up system.
EMR’s can either compliment or hinder the way we care for people but remember, humans should enter the room first and never hide behind the machine. Patients lose trust in the caregiver and we lose the human connection when we allow the computer to take precedence!
What is your experience with EMR’s? Leave me your story in the comments!