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

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 MeleisMany 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.

AG: How did the relationship with Eclipsy beginwas it the school that initiated a conversation, or was it Eclipsys?

AM: It’s really hard to remember how it was initiated, but we definitely wanted to integrate information technology and information systems in our curriculum from early on.

KB: I just recall that I was aware of the fact that the hospital was getting the Eclipsys system and that there are other schools of nursing in the country that have partnered with information system companies. So I just started asking some questions about that and basically was connected with Jim Cato, the Chief Nursing Informatics Officer from Eclipsys. He and I began to talk and brainstorm, and here we are today. It was about a two-year process of talking it over. We did look at some other vendors, and I talked to several professors at other schools of nursing that have other vendors that they're working with to gather information to ensure we’re making a good decision in partnering with the right company. We’re really pleased about the partnership we formed.

AG: So would this be the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania that was acquiring some Eclipsys technology, and that’s how the conversation started, because you're affiliated with that hospital?

AM: The University of Pennsylvania owns four hospitals. They are all under the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and the whole health system acquired it. I did want to underscore what Dr. Bowles said, that we've looked at different systems very carefully to see which one would fit with our curriculum and which one fits in terms of our perspective of what nursing offers. But we decided on this based on very deliberate decision making. And it’s fantastic because it’s the school and health system that are implementing it.

AG: So I would imagine Eclipsys had a built-in advantage because it would be easy for the students to be educated on the system in the school, and then, if they chose to stay within the health system, they would already know the product that was being rolled out.

KB: Yes, but that’s not so much an advantage for Eclipsys as it is for the students and also for the health system. Our students that choose to work at an Eclipsys hospital certainly have an advantage of understanding that system. And in fact, I expect our students are going to be probably helping some of the nurses learn how to use it, given that our students are young and tech savvy and they’ll be dealing with nurses, of course, all over the world that are of different ages and different experiences. So that would be interesting to see.

We went after a product that, as Dean Meleis said, best matched our vision here at the School of Nursing, and that is a research focus in evidence-based practice. The Eclipsys system provides that to the clinician at the bedside. And it was the only product that we evaluated that did that as well as it does. It provides evidence-based guidelines for a multitude of conditions that nurses treat and physicians treat, and we can, together, form a care plan that helps the clinician use the latest evidence from researched literature when they're setting up their plan of care with a patient. And that’s the message our students hear day after day in class. So it really will help bring that to life from the classroom to our labs to the clinical settings in which they are practicing.

AG: Do you think the strategy of partnering with a particular vendor is the widely adopted strategy? Was there any discussion of having a multi-vendor environment for the students, or is that just not practical?

AM: No, it would not be practical. We wanted one system that the students could become expert in. And not only because it is used in the healthcare system here, but because once you master a really good system that has a nursing-driven knowledge base, you have an advantage. Our students who work, as Dr. Bowles said, all over the world can use that competence and that learning and pursue it to any other system that they might be using. It’s really wise to consolidate efforts and energy and partner with one system that we considered is the best of what we have looked at very carefully.

AG: Were students clamoring for this, or was there a demand from the hospitals that new nurses be more tech savvy? Was there a pull from a particular direction?

AM: None of that. Penn nursing is always at the forefront of really pushing the envelope and looking at new ways of doing things, and we have an informatics expert here, Dr. Kathy Bowles, and before her there was also Dr. Norma Lang. So the push is coming from a vision and from goals, rather than from students or from the healthcare system. And we know that this is the way the world is going, and we’re not going to be able to function and develop the expertise and the competence we need without using the best processes and the best systems in informatics. So we’re constantly looking for the next best thing that would make us at the forefront of knowledge.

KB: We know that the electronic patient record is coming, and we’re strong believers that our students will be prepared for the 21st century practicing with these systems. But that’s not to say our students aren’t excited about it; they didn’t push us into it, but boy, they're excited about it now that it’s here.

AG: Would you say you’ve set the bar for the schools that compete with you and now they’ll start adopting these programs? You’ve somewhat differentiated yourself perhaps; do you see it that way?

AM: I think that’s a really nice way of putting it; we are constantly differentiating ourselves in terms of a vision of being forward thinking and thinking ahead of what's happening in the healthcare system.

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?

Click here for Part II

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