By Tim Bristol, director of strategic planning, NurseThink, Wolters Kluwer Health.
The ever-worsening nursing shortage is taking the United States by storm, with nearly 800,000 nurses planning to leave their roles or retire by 2027. Unfortunately, nursing education is not immune to this crisis.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that 8.8% of faculty positions are vacant at U.S. nursing schools and additional positions would need to be created to meet student demand. Without enough faculty, this has a serious impact on the capacity and effectiveness of nursing education programs as nursing schools are already being forced to turn away qualified applicants. Fortunately, while faculty shortages won’t be solved overnight, advancements in instructional technology can help fill the gap.
One key challenge facing nursing education is that the curriculum is not set up to teach students in a way that mirrors real-world practice. While new nurses today will often face greater challenges – and often higher caseloads – than ever before, nursing students are not being adequately trained to face this reality. In many ways, today’s nursing classrooms look no different than the classrooms students may have encountered in 1993. But a lecture hall looks very different than the chaotic hospital setting new nurses will actually experience. To help ensure students build skills and engage in clinical judgement, even if faculty numbers are limited, incorporating electronic health records and virtual simulation into their daily education can make a major difference.
Electronic health records are not optional
While electronic health record (EHR) systems are a highly discussed technology across the healthcare landscape, they have been shown to reduce errors and lower medical costs. Needless to say, EHRs are here to stay across healthcare and something that care teams need to use, every day. However, they can only positively impact healthcare as a whole if nurses are trained to use them effectively and efficiently before they encounter them in clinical practice.
It’s important for faculty to understand how easy it is to implement EHRs into the daily classroom experience. Students could simply login to a basic, blank EHR and enter data based on a case study or challenge given by their instructor. For example, students could be tasked with entering a blood pressure reading that would indicate that they should hold (not give) a patient medication to lower their blood pressure. When faculty allow students to experience this type of activity, they are learning in the same way in which they will be using EHRs in practice. This is something that could easily be incorporated into nursing classrooms, even in a lecture hall of 100+ students.