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U of Calgary nursing students train on e_records

By Chris Simnett

New nurses have to deal with many challenges but the University of Calgary is making sure a computer system isn’t one of them.

The university’s Faculty of Nursing has installed four ‘Computers on Wheels’ – also known as Cows – in its Nursing Skills Centre.

The Cows connect to the Calgary Health Region’s electronic health record (e_record) system, allowing nursing students to complete training on the actual computer system they’ll use when working in the Region’s hospitals.

Students can access training information on imaginary patients only; they do not have access to information on real patients.

“They can learn it ahead of time, play with it and when they go to their clinical placements, they can work like the rest of the staff,” says Dale Brar of Training Content and Development, Advanced Technology, at the Region.

“This takes the students beyond the school setting to the clinical environment,” adds Brar.

“Previously we had unit managers express concern the students were not quite ready when it came time to use the system. Because the nursing students can now practice with ‘play patients,’ they’re learning the real thing. This is the missing link.”

The nursing faculty has created 12 different scenarios that students, from first to fourth year, will use when recording and monitoring information of these imaginary patients.

Although getting the university and Region computers to mesh has been a challenge, U of C nursing instructor Barb Johnston is excited about giving students access to the technology.

“We’ve partnered with the Region in order to access this system,” Johnston says. “It’s been a huge technical challenge for the Region and for our IT people – specifically our IT person on faculty. They’ve really given birth to this.”

The e_record system currently connects Calgary’s three Regional adult acute care hospitals: the Peter Lougheed Centre, Foothills Medical Centre and Rockyview General Hospital.

The system, expected to be fully operational by 2010, will give healthcare professionals instant electronic access to a patient’s medical file, ultimately allowing citizens to access their own personal care information, view specific lab results and self schedule appointments.