We’ve all heard it. Nurses loathe, despise, resist (your adjective of choice) EMR and HIT. It’s been said so frequently that it’s often taken as fact. Heck I’ve even written, on this very blog, about how to get resistant RNs on board with new technology.
So I was simultaneously surprised, embarrassed and proud when I saw this bit of news from Manhattan Research, a company that conducts research studies on eHealth trends among healthcare professionals. Brace yourselves.
In its most recent Taking the Pulse Nurses study, which focused on digital adoption and behaviors of U.S. nurses and physician assistants, Manhattan Research found:
- PAs, advanced practice nurses and RNs spend more time online for professional purposes than physicians.
- Average time online per week for professional purposes in 2012 were: RNs, 16 hours; APRNs, 14 hours; PAs, 14 hours; and physicians, 11 hours.
- PAs, APRNs and RNs use smartphones more often than physicians during patient consultations.
- PAs, APRNs and RNs use pharmaceutical or biotech websites more frequently than physicians and are more interested in using pharmaceutical features on EHRs
Well now. Granted it is just one study, but those were not the kind of results I would have expected. Not given the “conventional wisdom” that getting RNs to embrace technology is a challenge. The results got me thinking about the validity of that wisdom. Is it a myth that RNs are resistant to technology?
I say, Yes, it’s a myth. Doing my best impression of Adam and Jamie from the Discovery Channel show MythBusters, here’s a few reasons why I think it’s time to retire the urban legend for good.
1. What’s true in the past, isn’t always true in the present.
Have you ever met someone who wore bell bottoms and lived on a commune in the 1960s? I have. Now he wears a suit and tie to work and drives a Lexus. Those of us who were in college during the 1990s no longer wear flannel shirts and Birkenstocks. And we all pretty much agree those spiral perms that were so cool in the late-1980s probably weren’t a good idea in the first place.
In other words, we all evolve over time. Perhaps when Health IT and EMR were new, nurses were averse to them. But, back then, technology in general wasn’t as ingrained in our society and daily lives as it is today. So why do we continue to assume that nurses and technology don’t mix? Just because it was once true doesn’t mean it still is. I think the results of Manhattan Research’s study show nurses attitudes towards technology have “come a long way baby.”
2. It’s about workflow.
When I’ve talked to RNs about why they like or dislike EMR or HIT, I’ve noticed a subtlety in their opinions. When you ask them why they dislike technology, you get the following answer: It made my job more difficult. And those who embrace it? Well, the technology made them more efficient.
In my opinion, it’s not that nurses are resisting technology, it’s that they haven’t been given the correct tools to do their jobs. When I went to visit my sister in Colorado a few years ago I rented a Hyundai coupe. When we drove up the mountains, the engine sounded like it was going to explode. It was like driving a riding lawn mower to Pike’s Peak. There’s nothing wrong with Hyundai in general, it just wasn’t the right tool for the job.
3. Amazon, Facebook and Google, oh my!
I’ve often heard, albeit from non-nurses, that nurses are “too old” to use the latest technology. To this I usually respond, “But they can keep a patient alive by managing a ventilator.” Frankly, no one is too old to use technology. My mother is 61 and she had a smart phone before I did. She uses Facebook, text messaging and can manage to do all of her Christmas shopping online. She’s also a nurse.
Technology has become more user friendly and is now part of our daily lives outside of work. Give nurses some credit. If you pick the right EMR and Health IT for the job and give nurses the right training, they’ll be able (and happy) to use it.
4. Talkin’ ’bout the next generation.
I admit I taught my mother about Facebook. But, once she got the hang of it, she ran with it. She works with nurses who are younger than her and, in some cases, younger than me. I think they’ve taught her more about how to use her laptop and her smart phone than I have. If she has a question about her laptop or how to find something online, she will ask her younger colleagues, and they are always more than happy to help her.
Nursing has a mix of generations working side by side. When I worked in the clinical setting, I was a 22-year-old new grad. Some of my colleagues were seasoned veterans in their mid-to-late-60s. They helped me fine tune my clinical skills and nursing knowledge. In turn, I was the go-to person to help them learn to use email (it was a new thing in the workplace in 1998) and the Internet.
Nursing students are being trained, through tools like Lippincott’s DocuCare, to use EMR while they are in nursing school. This generation won’t know what it is like NOT to use EMR. And, like me, they’ll be happy to coach their nursing colleagues in how to use the technology.
As they say on MythBuster’s, “So there you have it — myth busted!”
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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