An Argument for EHRs in the Classroom


On Wednesday, 9/25/13, Diane Yeager of EHR Tutor will be our guest on RN.FM Radio to speak about the importance of nursing students having hands-on training with various forms of electronic medical records. Please enjoy the guest blog post by Diane, and be sure to listen in (live or on the archived recording) to our conversation about this timely topic.

Guest post by Diane Yeager

While doing a talk regarding using computers in the nursing classroom at HOSA 2013, I had an instructor stand up and voice a concern heard throughout the medical world: “After 20 years of running the same small practice, my friend is now saddled with electronic health records. She didn’t become a medical professional to sit in front of a computer all day, but now she spends time with a mouse and keyboard instead of listening to her patients. She’s considering closing the practice because of what her job has become. How is that good for anyone?”

To which I’d like to offer a public reply that applies to all nurses and medical professionals facing a similar dilemma. None of us went into nursing to become a secretary, that’s a sentiment we can all relate to. But the move to electronic health records doesn’t have to change our jobs. Working with a patient is still that – working with a patient. Including listening, critical thinking and compassion.

Let’s think about the days before electronic health records for a moment. For each IV we started and each medication administered, we used our trusty blue pens to ink the record on a paper chart. We passed those charts between doctors and nurses, recording every step of the patient care process. Mistakes were crossed out, never erased, and then filed away for all of eternity in the records room of a hospital.

Now we still start IVs and pass medications, but instead of using a blue pen to write on a piece of paper, we use a keyboard to write on a screen. The process is exactly the same, the only difference is the apparatus.

And the apparatus shouldn’t be slowing us down. Which is why I believe the solution comes from the very beginning of a nurse’s professional education. Just like a pen became part of the nursing uniform in the past, computer skills should become a part of every new nurse’s training. Typing an order should feel as natural as writing the name of a medication on a piece of paper. This can be accomplished by introducing EHRs in the classroom with an academic EHR system. Allowing students to practice critical thinking while using the actual “tools of their craft”. Instead of a quick introduction to a computer during one lesson, it should be integrated into all aspects of a nurse’s education, just like it will be an integral part of their job. That way, by the time a nurse gets his/her license, using EHRs will feel as natural as paper chart was for the rest of us.

Which doesn’t mean we should leave experienced nurses behind. Education doesn’t happen just once in life, it’s an ongoing process. For those nurses struggling with an EHR there are ways to educate yourself. First, ask for training in the specific system your office uses. Next, familiarize yourself with a keyboard and learn to type (PowerTyping is a good free resource for practicing your typing skills). Once you have those skills down, it won’t feel like you’re devoting your life to a computer. It will feel like exactly what it is – charting on a patient. A real patient who is living and breathing in front of you.

Please visit EHR Tutor for more information about their services and offerings.