Nurses: The True Care Coordinators

May 15, 2015 Dr. Cheryl McKay, CNO

This week we celebrate, recognize and raise awareness about nursing. 

National Nursing Week (May 9-15) is currently taking place in Canada, while National Nurses Week (May 6-12) in the U.S. culminates on the birthday of the founder of modern nursing – Florence Nightingale. We celebrate nursing during this time because nurses are often considered healthcare’s unsung heroes. President of the American Nursing Association, Pamela Cipriano, eloquently pointed out in her recent Huffington Post article, that there are many misconceptions about the role nurses play in our healthcare system.

A common misconception is that all nurses are the same, a sort of one-size-fits-all career. However, this is far from the truth, from specializing in geriatric care, family practice, critical care to trauma, in many ways a nurse is a patient’s (and physician’s) most trusted ally. Currently, there are more than 400,000 licensed nurses in Canada and over 3 million in the U.S. No matter what role a nurse plays during a patient’s care process, the nurse uses technology to get the right information to the right person, at the right time in order to provide the right care.

Take, for example, an elderly patient dealing with a chronic condition. Through the help of clinical tools like electronic health records (EHRs) and eReferrals, a nurse can help coordinate care through activities such as creating appointments with the patient’s doctor and specialist, ensuring the patient has the funds to renew their prescription or removing other barriers to care.   

This is perhaps best illustrated with the efforts nurses have made to provide community care. Before my time at Orion Health, my nursing healthcare team in Illinois and I were challenged with providing breast cancer screenings to women in communities who had limited resources and were not able to get their screenings. Through research of our population, we discovered that many of our target demographic were consistently able to attend Sunday church. In coordination with community churches we were able to set up mobile mammograms. This program helped increase breast cancer screenings from 20% to 80%. By working with the parish nurse program nurses were able to help create a healthier population.

When nurses are equipped with the proper tools, they become formidable allies for patients. Without access to effective, user-friendly technology to do their jobs, nurses often find themselves limited in their ability to make change.  How long does a nurse have to spend scrolling through folders to reach the right one? Is patient data displayed in a way that makes sense? Can the nurse easily access additional sources of data like lab results?  If these data standards aren’t met the care process is effectively slowed and care is weakened.

Thus, it’s essential that healthcare technology tools are not only developed with Physician providers, decision makers or IT departments, but also considers the many important roles our nurses play.  Nurses help to provide the grounded knowledge of what will and won’t work for the end user in the clinical environment. They understand the full tapestry involved in coordinated care and are tapped into the needs of the community.

This week, we at Orion Health acknowledge your contributions and thank you for all you do for our company and our clients. 

 

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