By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Patient care charting is a standard and often time consuming part of every nurse’s shift. Travel nurses can add the task of learning charting systems at new hospital assignments. Digital charting is the much publicized solution that would be a timesaver for nurses and other clinicians, and because of improved clarity and continuity of care, a potential lifesaver for patients. Digital charting systems may not be entirely universal, but with the similarities in various computer interfaces available to hospitals, travel nurses would surely see the benefits from assignment to assignment.
During his term in office, President Bush set a goal of 2014 for all hospitals and medical facilities to convert patient records from paper to digital. The publicity coming from hospitals across the country may have us believe that most facilities have already made the switch and are happily charting digitally well ahead of the 2014 goal. However, a national survey published in a March issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, reveals startling information. Only 8-11 percent of hospitals have converted from paper charting to even basic digital systems (meaning at least one department has made the switch). President Obama and his administration have promised $19 billion (that’s billion with a “b” for those of you following the financial news) to help the other approximately 90 percent of America’s hospitals make the switch to digital. This seems like a logical solution, since the major reason cited by the hospitals who haven’t gone digital, is funding for the massive technological undertaking.
With many hospitals already in the red because of the economic downturn, the prospect of dishing out more money for a new project of this size is probably an extremely painful one to add to the budget. For the nurses, travel nurses and others who work directly with patients and not budget spreadsheets there is no question that digital charting and recordkeeping will allow them to spend more time where they are needed most, with patients.
Travel Nurses: How do your observations of hospitals using digital charting and/or recordkeeping compare with the statistics in this report? Which do you prefer – digital or paper? I value your feedback.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.