Pioneers in Healthcare IT
Nursing’s role in
By Fotine D. O’Connor, RN, M.N.
Editor’s Note: The is the seventh installment in our also were trying to provide access to optimum healthcare
year-long 30th anniversary “Pioneers in Healthcare IT” for all people. New legislation concerning Medicare and
celebration, featuring articles from past issues of Health Medicaid supported that philosophy; treatment modali-
Management Technology, formerly called Computers in ties proliferated and healthcare costs increased apace. As
Healthcare. This article appeared in the November 1983 a result, the healthcare industry faces a situation today
issue. wherein legislative bodies, the health insurance indus-
ill nurses serve the computer or will the try and employers are now taking vigorous measures to
computer serve nursing? This may well be contain healthcare costs.
the question for nurses and the industry The nursing administrator who has put in place a
to answer in this decade. decentralized structure is in a unique position to use
Acceptance of computers in hospitals will be greatly computers within that structure to provide management-
infl uenced by whether nurses, the largest population information support for the head nurse, which can
in the healthcare fi eld, accept them on friendly terms. enhance fi scal accountability and control at the ward
That may depend on how well the industry helps nurses level.
identify, defi ne and meet the needs of nurses through Timely, accurate information, such as that concerning
computers. nursing hour ration and personnel utilization, is vital to
Healthcare has used computers extensively for several the head nurse charged with effectively managing pre-
decades, but primarily in fi nancial matters, particularly cious resources within budgetary constraints. Effi cient
revenue. Nursing has been used to provide input data, management-information systems and computerized
but has not generally benefi ted as a user. data processing can provide such information.
In recent years, some major phenomena have com- Nurses need not be mathematical wizards to work
bined within the healthcare arena to create an exciting with computers. They must, however, be knowledgeable
climate, within which nurses may have a unique oppor- as to the state of the art so that they may be among those
LIT# tunity to harness the power of computers to serve them.
defi ning and deciding how computers will be used in
Ironically, one of the areas that may be most impacted their institutions. Nurses need and must demand further
is budgetary control at the ward or unit level within information about the ever-increasing potential applica-
healthcare institutions. tions of computers to nursing education, patient care and
An acute national nursing shortage over the last several management, especially in settings where their roles have
years prompted a close look at the dissatisfying factors expanded to encompass participatory management.
within hospital nursing from the nurse practitioner’s Within that expanded role, computers can help nurses
viewpoint. National studies showed that among their not only to streamline routine paperwork, which will free
major concerns were a lack of input into and impact on more time for ever-important direct interaction with
hospital decision-making processes, feelings of power- patients, but also can enable them to have a profound
lessness and organization structures which did not lend effect on their institutions’ ability to survive and function
themselves to their participation. cost effectively in tough fi scal times. HMT
These fi ndings encouraged many hospitals to choose
to undergo a reorganizational process through which
2500 Tamiami Tr N
traditional hierarchical nursing department structures In 1983, Fotine D. O’Connor, RN, M.N., was director
Nokomis, FL 34275
have changed dramatically. The “decentralized” struc- of nursing services and education for the 2,100-bed Los
1-800-226-6113 tures that emerged established the head nurse as ward
Angeles County/University of Southern California Medi-
manager, with responsibility and authority for maximum cal Center. She also was an assistant clinical professor of
decision making at that level. community medicine and public health for the USC School
During the era of acute nursing shortage – an era which of Medicine, and served as director of the medical center
many have labeled “the golden years of healthcare” – we nursing department.
14 February 2010 HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY www.healthmgttech.com
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