HITS program to provide positive impact on RIC Nursing Department

John Deckro and Judy Murphy are the first Health Information Technology Scholars in Rhode Island.

John Deckro and Judy Murphy are the first Health Information Technology Scholars in Rhode Island.
Back in 2008, RIC’s School of Nursing, in conjunction with the Providence VA Medical Center, was chosen as one of 15 national partnerships to participate in the VA Nursing Academy. The four-year program aims to bridge the gap in the shortage of certified nurses to care for patients and families nationwide.

John Deckro and Judy Murphy are two of seven federal VA Medical Center employees hired so far as faculty in Rhode Island to teach nursing classes at RIC and work with students in clinical groups at the School of Nursing Simulation Center and the Providence VA Medical Center.

They were also recently selected as Health Information Technology Scholars (HITS), the first from the state of Rhode Island.

As part of the yearlong HITS program, Deckro and Murphy are collaborating to develop a model of the VA Medical Center’s Computerized Patient Records System (CPRS) to support general informatics knowledge, clinical computer skills, and simulation exercises with students and faculty.

With a model CPRS system, RIC nursing students and faculty that have clinical placements at the VA Medical Center will be able to learn the conventions of the real system in a controlled, calm environment instead of in a busy clinical setting, Deckro said.

“It can serve as a vehicle to introduce some of the aspects of electronic health records throughout the curriculum,” he added.

Judy Murphy, left, with two RIC nursing students.
The model can also better prepare students for what they will face in a clinical setting. Murphy, a nurse and educator, has had experience in simulation instruction. She said research in the field suggests that the fidelity of simulation is related to the good outcomes.

“The more realistic it is, the better, and the reality is that out in health-care settings, they’re using computerized records,” Murphy said.

Deckro described the VA’s system of electronic health records as “one of the largest and most well-developed systems in the country.”

Murphy referred to the other components of the database that students can learn to manage through the practice model being developed.

One feature is a pharmacy interface that helps to safely administer medication to patients. The database also has clinical support tools that remind nurses of any tasks they failed to complete.

Deckro, who is experienced in clinical care and as a nurse educator, emphasized how important simulation can be to familiarize students with safety initiative procedures and to improve their communication skills.

He explained that improving communication is essential because the majority of errors that occur in health care are attributed to poor communication.

Murphy said that the use of a model CPRS database in simulation ultimately “integrates safety features as well as accessibility of data” to provide a safe foundation for students to practice.

She added that a partnership between nurse clinicians and nurse educators will inform and enhance nursing.

The model CPRS database can make students aware of the evolving health care system, which she said is focusing more on health promotion and disease prevention rather than solely on clinical care. “That’s really what the focus of baccalaureate nursing is,” Murphy said.

Deckro and Murphy are among 52 others selected nationally to participate in the HITS faculty development program through four enrichment phases designed to promote the integration of vital information technology into college nursing curriculums across the country.

John Deckro
The HITS program is a collaborative project between the University of Kansas School of Nursing and Nursing Schools at the University of Colorado Denver, Johns Hopkins University and Indiana University in partnership with the National League for Nursing (NLN). It is funded by a five-year $1.5 million dollar Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant.

In January, Deckro and Murphy began the HITS program by completing on-line modules and discussions with other scholars in preparation for an immersion workshop in March.

Next, they attended the three-day workshop held in Denver, Colo., as part of Phase 2 of the program. It gave them the opportunity to continue working on their group project and to network with other informatics scholars.

Additionally, they were able to meet directly with nationally renowned scholars, and were introduced to the vast number of health technology innovations currently available.

Deckro provided two examples of how innovative technology is being used in nursing education: a virtual intensive care unit that students can use to determine which medications to administer to patients, and a virtual home set up by an occupational therapist for students to identify safety hazards and the solutions to address them.

The most noteworthy example of how technology can be used to educate and enrich the lives of patients was a virtual reality computer program inspired by the popular virtual world of Second Life.

In the program, Deckro and Murphy recalled how patients can create an avatar and interact with others in their virtual world. Many times, as is the case for a presenter at the workshop who has multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair bound, the patients get to participate in activities that they would otherwise be unable to do, Murphy said.

“There’s a library there, where they have evidence-based articles from medical literature that the patient’s can access so they can learn more about their condition,” she added.

Phases 3 and 4 of the HITS program require the participants to continue developing their projects through further online tutorials and discussion groups, so they can introduce an approved technology project into their schools of nursing curricula.

At this point, Deckro and Murphy are not sure if the CPRS model will be up at RIC this fall but they are currently working on how to implement it with the help of User Support Services on campus. With the support of a federal appropriations grant, cameras will be installed in the RIC Nursing Skills Lab, which Murphy said would help with the debriefing of clinical simulation scenarios that are conducted there.

“It’s all about trying to better prepare nursing students to give better care to clients, families and population groups,” Deckro said.