As I sit at home for Thanksgiving break I am surrounded by nurses. My mom is a nurse, my sister is a nurse and my dog is named nurse. When my mom and sister get to talking about work I usually find my input to be less than helpful. Apparently saying “I too was administering shots last week…of Vodka” is not as funny to a nurse as one might think. So I have learned my lesson to just smile and nod when it comes to these conversations. This year was a little bit different. My mom was talking about when she was in nursing school they charted everything by hand. My newly graduated sister was soon to combat this statement with: “we barely do anything by hand almost everything is computerized”.
Hearing the word computer made my ears perk up, because now they were speaking my language! I heard them go back and forth on the digitization of working in a hospital and I was absolutely dumbfounded. I had not realized how much today’s doctors and nursing staff depend on technology. As my curiosity peaked I decided to ask my sister to walk me through what a day as a nurse looked like and I was astounded.
I asked my sister to elaborate on what she considered to be the most important technologies and devices she uses everyday:
When a nurse comes into work they grab a computer that has a scanner attached to it. The computer, monitor, and scanner are on top of a wheeled surface that the nurses can easily push around from room to room. In order to use the computer, and all of its specialties, the nurse logs into the system. This logging in enables for the system to keep track of what each nurse is doing and what they are administering. After the nurses are all logged in they go and make rounds.
**It is at this point in the daily description that my mom chimed in to talk about how starkly different and paperless today’s nurses are. **
When they enter a patients room each nurse must take the scanner (that is attached to their computer) and scan the patients bar code. Every patient has an individual and unique barcode. Once the code is scanned the computer lights up with all the patient information. It gives the nurse the patients medical history, symptoms, current medication, medication they need, etc. This system reduces human error. It not only keeps all the patient information in order it also helps keep some of the nurses accountable. My mom is the CNO (chief of nursing) at another hospital and said she is always astounded by the number of nurses that try to steal and smuggle drugs out of the hospital. Knowing that everything is being tracked and can be traced back, has decreased the amount of pharmaceutical theft done by nurses by a large amount.
On the topic of administering drugs, this is also left little to human interaction. A nurse will administer a patient drugs through a pump. In order to start the pump the nurse will scan the patients bar code. Once scanned, the pump will know what medicine and how much to administer to the patient. One of the best parts about the pump, according to the two nurses, is that the pump knows what rate you should be administering the medicine. There is an incredible amount of room for human error in nursing and a lot of these devices help minimize it. This not only helps the patients, but it also allows the nurses to get more done and focus more on the patient’s illness than on the small details of filing paper or counting pills.
After learning about all these devices I asked my sister if the machines ever messed up. We talk a lot about human error but what about machine error?
My sister explained that sometimes the computer does not save the information or drug administration and the nurse will have to go in to document what has been done. After writing this information down the nurse must create a work order ticket for IT to come in fix. The funny thing is, my sister and mom said that 9 out of 10 times the scanner or pump is not working is based off a nurses error.
After all this hospital talk, I realized I know so little about the vast reaches and uses of technology. I was happy to see “my world” colliding and impacting my moms and sisters. Not only did this discussion give me an incredible respect for medical technology, but also an incredible respect for the hospital staff. It takes a powerful machine to keep track of information and administer drugs, but it takes an even stronger and powerful nurse to be with the patients and care for each and every one of them.