We have come to the so-called Age of Computers where all our transactions need speed to keep up with the fast times. Globalization is making the world smaller and drawing people closer with the advent of modern information technology. The First World Countries have invested millions to adopt progressive communications by way of computers which continue to upgrade abruptly. Thus the influence that computers have nowadays cannot be undermined owing to the fact that all forms of human activities are influenced by computers. This includes the field of commerce and trade, education, scientific studies and research, social and natural sciences, government and law, and even health care particularly in nursing practice. Especially for developed countries, the impact of computer use in nursing is felt to a larger extent compared to developing nations.
Computer applications in nursing practice have continued to develop over the past twenty years to reach the stage where nursing practice is firmly interwoven with computer technology (Gillham, 1997). These include latest technologies such as voice mail, electronic mail, instant messaging and mobile messaging by means of various internet messengers. Through computers, nurses can execute their duties and responsibilities with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Human errors are decreased thus health care delivery becomes more reliable and consistent.
Nurses have been intimately involved with technology in patient care for decades (Kearns, 2000). But as years passed by, the use of computer technology is not limited to patient care only but has innovated and stretched out to cover other areas of nursing practice. Generally in the clinical setting, this current usage can be divided into two categories namely Admission, Discharge and Transfer (ADT) and Nursing Documentation respectively. It is also seen that computers can accelerate the nursing process which includes nursing assessment, nursing diagnosis, planning implementation and evaluation. Apart from this, computers are also utilized in Nursing Education, Nursing Research and Nursing Administration.
In ADT, this system “allows nurses to obtain basic biographical information on clients before they arrive to the unit” (Thomas, 2002). This is common among advanced countries where patient admissions, discharges and transfers are made more convenient since all sections of the health care unit have computers which contain patient records. As soon as any of these three tasks are called for, the nurses will simply enter into the computer the respective order thus minimizing their phone calls and possible errors with proper coordination applied. In admissions, the nurses can confirm immediately as to vacancies of hospital beds and other services offered by the health institution. In terms of discharges and transfers, this can easily be informed among the staff hence lessening the time of waiting on the part of the patient and the significant others (SO).
A nursing information system (NIS) can increase efficiency and accuracy in all phases of the nursing process-assessment, nursing diagnosis, planning, implementing, and evaluating (“Using computers to speed up the nursing process,” 2002). Meaning, with greater speed and competence of the nursing process through a computerized scheme, the standards of nursing practice would be enhanced to a better level.
This type of method can also allow nurses to watch their patients more carefully since time is saved by the computerized programme of nursing process. As far as nursing documentation is concerned, this includes nursing assessments, nursing care plans, medications, administration records, nurses’ notes and patient charting, discharge plans and other modes of documentation available in the health care unit. In advanced countries, all these documents and records are already computerized so they are more helpful and effective since they are more readable compared to the nurses’ manual handwriting which are prone to mistakes since not all penmanship are clear. The computer can be programmed to identify the data and time of all entries as well as the initials or the name of the person making the entry (Thomas, 2002). Canada is one of the countries which have implemented electronic health records. A high-quality, sustainable and effective Canadian health care system supported by an infostructure that provides Canadians and their health care providers timely, appropriate and secure access to the right information when and where they enter into the health care system (Reichert, 2005).
Nursing education has taken a wider step during the Computer Age. The goals of nursing education have always been linked to increased quality of nursing standards related to efficiency of clinical practice. As an educational tool, computers guide nurses in facilitating learning depending on individual capacities. In 1996 a project using computer based nursing care planning for education purposes was carried out at the University of South Australia (Gillham, 1997). This study emphasizes that online training for Registered Nurses should be pertinent to existing clinical practices for it to become technologically effective and efficient in terms of cost and level of education.
On the other hand, nursing research is another field which utilized computer-based technology during recent times. In 1999, Wendy Budin wrote a book with Jacqueline Rose Hott entitled Essentials of Nursing Research, 6th edition, which included a chapter “devoted to the creative use of computers and information technology in nursing research” (Budin, 2004). It is a publication which provides its readers a guide to research methods in a brief and summarized package. Nursing studies and investigations can best be conducted and facilitated by applying computer technology since it is more accurate and organized. Computerized literature searches are a particular advantage to the researchers because they save time and can increase the scope of search and the number of database that can be searched (Thomas, 2002).
Statistical skills and data management and reporting can be carried out more easily with computer programs intended solely for these purposes.
As to nursing administration, this aspect considerably utilizes the use of computers especially in planning, organizing, controlling and directing the health care unit. An important element of administration is staffing. Some high-tech hospitals make use of computers in assigning nurses to specific patients depending on the degree of severity of the disease condition. This is equally important for inventory of hospital supplies. A computer-generated inventory system can “help the nurse administrator to prepare reports and letters, create budgets and maintain personnel records and mailing lists” (Thomas, 2002). Finally, computer programmes are also designed to coordinate scheduling of nursing shifts and days off to determine the number of nurses desirable for the respective number of patients admitted.
With increasing demands for efficient health care delivery system, it can be concluded that computers are now a necessity in order to improve nursing practice encompassing nursing education, nursing research, nursing administration and the nursing process as a whole. Life is being dealt with in the field of nursing that is why it entails further standardization in all its applications. Its implementation could be a hindrance among developing countries, however, this computerized system among health care units should be adopted in time. Health is wealth after all. The strength of the nation comes from the strength of its people.
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