Viewpoints: EHR Practice Can Enhance Your Classroom and Make Your Students Better Nurses

As educators and nurses, we have learned so much over the past two years. We learned the true meaning of patience and flexibility as we quickly shifted to delivering our courses virtually and worked to build meaningful learning experiences for our students despite the constantly changing world around us. We were also reminded of the important role we play in our society. Nurses have time and again been named the most trusted profession, but during the global pandemic, we also became one of the most valued. And those nurses wouldn’t be there without strong, compassionate, dedicated nurse educators. 

Unfortunately, the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our healthcare workers, including nurses, exacerbating nursing shortages across the country. Now, more than ever, we know the value of preparing our new nurses with the knowledge, skills, and ability to hit the ground running, ready to provide safe and effective patient care from day one. But how do we do that?

Providing students with authentic learning experiences is key. The days of three-hour-long lectures while students diligently take notes are behind us. Nursing skills can’t merely be taught as steps to memorize. Clinical experiences can’t be an isolated experience. We must help students make the connection between class and clinical. 

One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate an electronic health record (EHR) into all learning environments. Nurses spend a great deal of their time in a patient’s chart for a reason—the EHR is the hub for communication about that patient. A resource such as SimChart NG allows educators to make one of the most recognizable and important clinical tools, the patient chart, a consistent part of the courses.

Now, more than ever, we know the value of preparing our new nurses with the knowledge, skills, and ability to hit the ground running, ready to provide safe and effective patient care from day one.  But how do we do that?

SimChart NG’s case studies give students an opportunity to find important patient information within the chart as well as to document assessment findings. These cases can be completed independently or as part of a group activity. Think of the connections students could make as they read about a concept, discuss it in class, and then simulate care of a relevant patient with a case study that includes a complete patient chart. That is how we truly connect the dots!  

SimChart NG also includes blank charts, which are perfect for use in lab. Instead of just practicing the steps of a skill, have students complete documentation of the skill along with proper assessment as well, again, making those important connections to clinical practice. 

It is imperative that new nurses enter practice not just with the ability to document the care that they provide, but they must also be adept at navigating the chart to find crucial patient data.  Historically, learning about the patient chart has been part of clinical (and if you’ve ever had first-semester students in clinical, you know it can be a challenging one!) Think of the benefit to students’ clinical learning if they came with prior knowledge of an EHR. 

With the breadth of healthcare information out there, we must teach our students to think critically and build them with sound clinical judgment. In order to do that, students need more exposure to clinical-like situations. Using an EHR across all learning – didactic, lab, simulation, and clinical – can truly help build students who are ready to take on NCLEX® and begin as a safe, competent nurse from day one.

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