The nursing shortage may be having the unintended albeit beneficial consequence of improving clinical information systems at the nation's hospitals.
An increasing number of nurses are giving up bedside care to get more involved in implementing such systems to improve patient care in their facilities, according to a report released last week by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and a healthcare information technology company that designs clinical IT-based patient safety systems for use by nurses.
The report is based on a survey of more than 500 nurse informaticists conducted by HIMSS and sponsored by Omnicell. HIMSS released the report and survey results at its annual conference and exhibition in Orlando, Fla.
"Nurses are drawn to information technology because of their interest in converting the information they have into knowledge, and then applying that to how they care for their patients," said Laurene West, Omnicell's government affairs manager. West is a registered nurse and a nurse informaticist.
However, in an interview with Modern Healthcare, West acknowledged that burnout was a key factor that is driving nurses to turn in their stethoscopes for keyboards.
The report said nearly half of the nurse informaticists surveyed have a background in either intensive-care unit or medical/surgical nursing. Long hours, low pay, rising patient acuity and increasing patient loads are common issues facing nurses who work in those areas, West said.
Most of the nurses who make the jump abandon all of their clinical duties, the report said. Only 8% of the surveyed nurse informaticists said they spent more than one-quarter of their time on clinical duties.
By getting nurses more involved in designing and implementing clinical information systems, the systems stand a better chance of being accepted and used by clinicians to improve care.
"It's ridiculous when administration works with physicians or administration works with pharmacy on a system, and then they hand it to nurses and just tell them they're supposed to use it," West said. "If nurses don't like the system, they won't use it. You need to get nurses involved upfront."