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One-on-One with Penn School of Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis & Associate Professor Kathryn Bowles, Part II

February 5, 2009
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In this part of our interview, Meleis and Bowles talk about the importance of preparing today's clinicians to work in any type of environment.

Kathryn Bowles

Many say that if clinicians are ever to embrace IT en masse, it be a result of acclimation attained in medical school. The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing recently struck a deal with Eclipsys to bring such technology to its students, who will get “access to the company’s information technology … evidence-based practice guidelines, clinical content and knowledge management tools.” HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra recently talked with Afaf Meleis, PhD, DrPS (hon), FAAN, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing; and Associate Professor of Nursing Kathryn Bowles, PhD, RN, FAAN, about what the deal will mean to students, and what such types of deals will mean to the industry.

Part I

AG: I understand you're integrating Eclipsys technologies into the curriculum. Tell me where that stands now, have you developed many classes or is it a work in progress, and where do you see that going forward?

AM: Let me just say first that there is a task force in the school that’s chaired by Dr. Kathy Bowles and Donna Milici Dacey, M.S. ( Executive Director, Information Technology, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing) and they have a plan, and that’s what Dr. Bowles will tell you about.

KB: We have recently signed the contract with Eclipsys, and we've recently received the hardware. Just last night, we had a kickoff event to broadcast to the school community about the project, and we had a demonstration. So we’re in the very early stages of this.

Our task force has met, and we've identified two courses that we’re thinking of incorporating the system into for the fall and that would be starting with the freshman-level courses. And so we’ll be calling upon the faculty that are in those courses to meet with us, to learn the ins and outs of the software, and for them to tap their creativity in developing how they will integrate it into their courses.

It also will be available in our learning lab. We have a state-of-the-science learning lab here (Lillian Brunner Laboratory) for clinical skills building. The software will be available from that lab where there are beds and mannequins and simulated learning environments where our students will access it. And so the lab faculty will be involved in integrating it into the lab.

The system is Web-based, and so students can also use it from anywhere — their dorm room, their apartments, here at the school. And so it makes it convenient for our faculty to give a student an assignment and, overnight, they continue to work on the system and return the next day with the answers to whatever we've asked them to do.

AM: That’s one of the exciting things for me as a dean is to see that this is happening, to see the integration between the IT staff and faculty, working together to implement it and to think ahead about what else needs to be done. I think one of the next steps is that we are also thinking about, and rolling out, ways by which we might use it for research.

KB: What it will do in terms of research is for our faculty to become familiar with such a system and be able to see the components of an electronic patient record. And given that it is next door in our own health system, the comfort they can develop in this simulated environment we have here can be transferred over to the hospital where they then can feel comfortable pulling the data elements from our record at the hospital. That would help their research.

AG: There is a growing separation between the haves and have nots in healthcare, no more so than in reference to IT. Is there any concern that your students will be prepared for a hospital environment that largely doesn’t yet exist?

KB: We’re not concerned about that. The system they’ll be working in provides templates for documentation for assessment that can be printed out and turned into paper. And so it’s not so much the format of how they're putting information into something, whether it’s on a piece of paper or it’s on a computer screen; it’s the information that is important, the thinking that goes behind, ‘What should I collect, what questions should I ask, how do I describe this data that I’m trying to document,’ that’s the piece of it.

That goes back to whether we had an Eclipsys system or any other system — it doesn’t matter, it’s the content and the ability to think about the data elements and the importance of those. And you can do it on paper or you can do it in a computer.

AM: We’re going to prepare our students to be citizens of the world, so that they can work anywhere in the world. So even beyond the school with all the resources that we have, they go to Botswana, they go to Honduras, they go to Mexico, they go to communities even in our own neighborhood that do not have the same resources that we have. So we prepare them to be critical thinkers, we prepare them to be flexible, we prepare them to be able to adjust to whatever circumstances they have. And so if they are able to do that between here and Botswana and Honduras and Egypt, then they're going to be able to do it anywhere else.

AG: What are some best practices as to how schools can work with vendors as you have?