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

June 24, 2011
Kathryn Bowles     Afaf Meleis Many say that if clinicians are ever to embrace IT en masse, it will be a result of acclimation attained in medical

Kathryn Bowles Afaf Meleis

Many say that if clinicians are ever to embrace IT en masse, it will 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

Part II

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

MB: I think that the climate between vendors and hospitals, and now schools, is that vendors have recognized the importance of the clinician’s input in the design of these systems.

In earlier years, vendors went off and created a system and then brought it to the clinician and said, ‘Here, here is what we have, take it or leave it.’ But now, vendors are hiring more nurses to work on these products. Our graduates from our minor in healthcare informatics are hired at places like Siemens, Eclipsys, Cerner. They go off and help these companies develop systems so that clinicians are going to want to use them and they're going to like them, and they're going to fit into the workflow. So I think that’s the difference in how this relationship has changed.

AM: I think, from my perspective as the dean, as long as it is faculty driven, education driven, and curriculum driven, rather than vendor driven, equipment or supplies driven, then I think we show that we really are about education. Then we work with the vendor that’s going to supplement that, enhance it and help us achieve the goals, the educational mission that we have. We work with the vendor that will help us educate our students in the best possible way. I think, from my perspective, it’s a really good alignment and a good partnership, and we are moving at a very good speed right now in this partnership.

AG: Do you think it will be the integration of healthcare IT into clinical programs like yours that creates the significant uptick in adoption everyone is looking for?

AM: By adopting this product and working with the vendor, with students and faculty, we will definitely effect some changes in the industry and with older populations who are teaching at the university. One of the questions that comes to my mind, for example, is how do we make this system friendly to sell to people who are not as technologically savvy and technologically sound as our younger faculty and our younger students. So I think as we work with it, and as we see some changes in faculty adopting it that are from different generations, we’re going to be able to feed back to the industry and make some changes in it. It’s the two-way changes that are going to be happening.

But apropos to your point, there are some resistances, definitely, to the use of technology in all schools, just as there are in the healthcare system. But just as in healthcare organizations, there is increasing utilization and increasing comfort with it.

MB: As you know, President Obama is actually putting money behind it. There has been, as you know I’m sure, so much work going on toward this and now with this amount of money being promised behind it, it’s a given that it’s going to happen and the goal is by 2014. And we’ll be well positioned by then with this system integrated throughout all of our programs and our graduates.

AM: There are also places like Korea, China and Japan that are beginning to think about it. And they probably will move very fast in adopting.

AG: How do you get reluctant faculty to embrace the technology?

AM: There has been and will be resistance, but of different types. One type is not knowing what it’s about. One type is not really being able to use it as well. And there is sometimes resistance because of just not wanting to learn something new. So the way we are dealing with it is we are building momentum, we are building excitement about it. We are definitely rolling it out by clarifying its use, by showing outcomes, and by providing resources and facilities to learn. But that doesn’t happen overnight, that it is a process of transition to adopt technology. In that process, if you not only provide the learning and the knowledge, but you also provide the support along the way and the facilitation, there will probably be more acceptance of it. Our students help us because they are so savvy and they are very quick.

MB: Actually, our kickoff was fun because we had some students that are juniors who were dismayed that we were going to start with the freshman class in the fall … their faces dropped. They were very disappointed that they’ll miss out on it. I think the students are going to help the faculty learn to use it and ncourage the faculty to use it more, so that will be a part of it. And then I think it’s going to be a big job for myself and my colleagues, who are comfortable with these types of systems, to help the faculty see how they can do it. And so I’ll give them examples. And as we meet in smaller groups, I’ll generate some ideas with them, just to get them started.

When I watched the demo, I was sitting there thinking we can have them do an intake and output sheet and then have them compare it to the database and how the data is displayed … all types of ideas were coming up.

AM: And we have, in this school, experiences with other technologies that the faculty have completely adopted now. So we have experience. This is a progressive faculty that likes to think about different things and different ways by which they deliver their teaching. So there is excitement from top to bottom in the school.

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