2016 Trinidad State News

Trinidad State Nursing students get hands-on practice with health record machine

Valley Campus / January 16, 2016 / Written by Margaret Sanderson


Not many years ago, hospital nurses kept track of medications and vital statistics on a clipboard hanging from the end of a patient’s bed.  That all changed with electronic record machines.  Now, thanks to San Luis Valley Health, Trinidad State and Adams State nursing students have the use of their own $22,000 Wireless on Wheels (WOW) Electronic Health Record Machine that can be rolled anywhere in the Alamosa hospital.  For a little over two years, many identical machines have been used extensively by the nursing and ancillary staff.  “One of the issues we had about going live with an electronic health record was access for our students,” said Dawn Weed, Education Coordinator at San Luis Valley Health formerly known as the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center.  Weed schedules student clinicals (hands-on patient care), manages the use of the student WOW machine and is also a clinical instructor for the Adams State University Nursing Program.

”Beginning in January each student will have an individual log-in to allow access to patient records where they will be able to learn appropriate patient documentation using the WOW machine,” Weed explained, “Right now, the students have to observe the nurse’s documentation process.  With their own log-ins they will be able to go in independently and chart assessments on their patients and then a nurse will sign off on their documentation.  It gives the students a realistic opportunity to interact with patients.  This hands-on work will be a huge benefit for the student’s education and if San Luis Valley Health hires that student later, they will already know how our patient documentation works.”

Trinidad State student, Alexa Dunn, who earned her LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) at Trinidad State, works nights at Monte Vista Estates and takes classes during the day.  She earned her CNA while still in high school and worked in that capacity at both the Bridge and San Luis Care Center in Alamosa.  All are geriatric care facilities (for older people who need 24/7 health care) and this is where her love for caring for the elderly grew.  “I’m from the valley and I’ve always heard really good things about the nursing program at TSJC and decided that it was something I really wanted to do,” said Dunn.  “My mom’s a nurse and I love this area of health care (geriatrics) and feel really compassionate about it.  My favorite part of nursing is getting to know my patients.”  Dunn, who will graduate from Trinidad State with her RN (Registered Nurse) in May 2016, plans to pursue her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) on-line.  Using the student WOW machine at the hospital, she is learning how to chart assessments and scan medications. The cordless hand-held medication scanner, stored on the machine, reads bar codes. Every nurse is required to scan to verify codes before administering medication.  A click of a button compares the code on the medication bottle to the physician orders and then by scanning the patient’s wrist band it will verify that the right patient is receiving the right medication.  A third comparison with patient information on the computer screen also confirms that the patient is, in fact, being medicated appropriately.  This feature gives Dunn more confidence when administering medications with her instructor.

According to Steven Reinberg, writing for ‘HealthDay’ the bar code-scanning system ensures that every patient in the hospital gets the right medication at the right dose at the right time.  An alert will sound if a medication is overdue or if the scanned bar codes do not match.  Because medication orders are input into the system electronically, doctors’ orders are available quickly and medications are administered soon after.  Researchers found a 41 percent drop in (medicine) administration errors.  A study conducted by Dr. Chris Longhurst at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, California, showed that using a computerized doctor prescription system actually saves lives, reducing mortality by 20 percent.  Dr. Longhurst noted, “One reason lives are being saved is that the time from when a doctor writes a prescription until it is available to the patient has been cut significantly.  Another really important aspect is just simple access to information."  Weed also noted a reduction in errors with type written patient orders versus hand written ones.

Lab results, x-rays, medications, assessments, doctor’s orders, progress notes, and nursing documentation are readily available on the WOW machine.  This computer on wheels provides a well-rounded look at the patient’s medical history for current and previous hospital stays.  The patient information can be forwarded to other facilities using encryption which requires a password to access making it more secure than faxing.

The computers, mounted on steel frames with wheels stand about five feet tall and can be seen throughout the building, many of them parked against the walls if they are not in use.  Each unit comes with two large batteries and a recharger.  One battery powers the unit for six to eight hours while the other is recharged enabling long-term use.

For a number of years, the SimMan mannikins, the specialty “dummies” that mimic health crises such as strokes, heart attacks , child birth and other medical emergencies have been  remarkable training aids providing hands-on training and critical thinking skills for nursing students.  Now the nurses get hands-on training for correct patient documentation using the WOW machine which, like the SimMan mannikins, is a major factor in giving these nurses in training well-rounded educations.

Return to Top