With a future nursing shortage a concern for healthcare providers across the nation, Wellmont Health System is taking some high-tech steps to attract new nurses and retain its current caregivers.

“It’s hard to be a nurse,” said Suzanne Rollins, vice president of clinical services and operations at Bristol Regional Medical Center. “So we’re trying to make the work life of our nurses as efficient as possible.

“Basically, we are redesigning the way our nurses provide care. One way to do that is through new technology.”

Among recent technological advances at Wellmont hospitals is computer documentation of patient information. The ability to input information on a computer terminal in patients’ rooms is a tremendous time-saver, Rollins said.

“Nurses no longer have to fill out three different forms with the same information – the computer takes care of that,” she said. “And that information can be accessed from several different points. You don’t have to go looking for a specific patient’s chart when you need something.”

Computer documentation also serves as an important tracking tool for patients who make a return trip to the hospital.

“When they get here, the information is already up and available for the nurses,” Rollins said. “This just streamlines the whole paperwork process.”

Another new technology making life easier for Wellmont nurses is Pyxis automated supply and medication stations, which monitor the use of products and medications on a patient-by-patient basis. In addition to keeping a record of what supplies and medications are used by each patient, the Pyxis stations also immediately alert the materials management department or pharmacy when a product has been used so a replacement can be ordered and delivered.

“When nurses need an item or a medication, it’s already there and waiting for them,”said Norma Tomlinson, vice president of clinical services and operations at Holston Valley Medical Center. “By not spending time running down supplies, we’re able to spend that time at the patient’s bedside. That’s where nurses want to be, and that’s where they do the most good.”

Nurses are also being encouraged to make use of the Internet, Rollins said, to take advantage of everything from online job applications to online education modules.

“The younger generation of nurses is very technologically sound,” she said. “When a nurse interviews, the level of technology available at our hospitals is usually one of the first questions he or she asks. It’s important to young nurses that they’ll continue to learn and continue to face challenges.”

But the new technology isn’t just for the younger folks, Tomlinson added.

“Once they learn how to use it, our older nurses are often the biggest advocates of new technology,” she said. “When they’ve done something one way for years and a better way comes along, I think maybe they appreciate it a little more.”


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