A new report on the “digital future” of nursing published today paints a devastating picture of wards grappling with desperately outdated computers
“The single, most fundamental problem in our trust is the inadequacy of our IT systems. We are currently upgrading our PCs to run Windows 7 – an OS that is already nearly a decade out of date!”
This is the comment from one exasperated Nurse in a detailed report on the digital future of nursing, published by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) today.
The report, based on a survey of 896 nurses across the UK, painted a bleak picture of under-resourced facilities. Another nurse commented that they “hate to think how much nursing time is wasted each day waiting for computers to switch on, load emails, bring up blood results etc.”
They added: “And that is if you can find one that is free. Since IT systems are now at the heart of day-to-day clinical practice, there are rarely enough computers to match demand…”
The RCN’s researchers noted: “Developments in data, information, knowledge and technology will naturally tend to focus on areas which are exciting and innovative, but the examples we heard were relatively small scale, in specialised areas and did little to address the day-to-day challenges faced by nurses and midwives. Projects and programmes that do not address the fundamental difficulties should not be given a high priority, and attention should be paid to getting the basics right.”
While some Nurses note that digital systems have been put in their trust, the overall system in that trust has not been designed to cater for the wide range of working environments nurses operate in.
Another participant told the RCN researchers: “My Trust has set up the digital network, but as district nurses, we do not have access to the mobile equipment. Therefore, we have to complete paperwork in the home, including full assessments, then take the information back to base and input onto the EMIS system. This is a waste of nurses’ valuable time.”
“No Understanding of Nursing Role”
Nurses also informed the researchers that they believed the people who design the new digital systems that they are expected to use “have no idea about workflows and how information is used,” and that they have “never walked in our shoes yet they make decisions on our behalf and bring in systems for us to use.”
On the reverse side of this problem, it seems that some organisations within the NHS are not respecting the level of work and time that goes into introduce healthy digital environments that work.
One Nurse pointed out that they were “The clinical lead for informatics at a senior nurse level for two years. I devised templates, trained clinical staff (approx. 100 doctors, nurses, AHP users) networked with other hospices regionally and nationally.”
“The organisation wanted to change the role to staff nurse level – I retired.”
“Now there is no one in the organisation to continue to develop the electronic record, train staff with a clinical background – the team consists only of IT and data personnel.”
The research for this report was conducted between the 25th of January and 23rd of February 2018. The RCN carried out four weeks of online consultation combine with real-world focus groups. Some 896 people participated in the online consultation. Their information was combined with the discussion that took place in five focus groups undertaken in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds and London.