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Compassionate Care Part 1: Unlocking the Shackles of the Computer

· Kim Tucker,

I was recently re-reading Press Ganey’s Compassionate Connected Care™ model1. The concepts truly resonated with my experiences of providing direct nursing care and the impact when clinicians and technology intersect. In this multipart series, I would like to delve a bit deeper into several of the concepts from an informatics nurse’s viewpoint.

This week I wanted to discuss non-verbal communication and the importance of eye contact and body position. The reason I chose this concept first is because in my eighteen years as an informatics nurse specialist the complaint I have heard most frequently is that the computer interferes with the patient-clinician interaction. This theme has been repeated by nurses, physicians, and pretty much every other clinician who provides direct care. It doesn’t make any difference if the computer is mounted on a wall, on a cart, or in a cubbyhole outside the room; clinicians feel they are shackled to a computer.

From the patient perspective, how does it feel to have your nurse talking to you that you can’t see (except for the occasional glances in your direction) from behind a 19″ monitor on a large cart or a screen on the wall? If you ask a question, does your nurse have to leave the room to look up the answer at a workstation elsewhere?

One of the positive images mentioned in the report were “clinician sits down at eye level with the patient.” I immediately thought of a time when I was asked by a client to do a video on new mobile workflows. After interviewing many of their nurses, I learned that many of them did not think it was acceptable for them to sit down in the patient room, even while talking with the patient. They thought management would see that as being lazy. As much benefit as technology has brought to the patient care process, we still have a ways to go to improve how we integrate the computer into a compassionate care environment. One of the solutions is the use of mobile technology.

When I visit our PatientSafe Solutions’ clients, one of the first things that strikes me is the lack of computer carts cluttering the hallways. No nurses pushing carts up and down the halls trying to avoid hitting small children, medical equipment, or people in wheelchairs. When watching nurses interact with patients without needing a large computer on the wall or having a cart between them and their patients, but only using a pocket-sized computing device to barcode scan, look up information, and document their rounding activities, I know we are on the right track to lessening technology’s impact to providing compassionate care. After almost 10 years in the clinical mobility space, not only do I see light at the end of the tunnel, I see true solutions.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How do you think technology is impacting compassionate care?

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