Greenfield Community College

Grant will allow GCC nursing students to digitally chart patient information

Greenfield Community College nursing instructor Mary Phillips (Photo by Beth Reynolds)

Greenfield Community College nursing instructor Mary Phillips (Photo by Beth Reynolds)

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College nursing students will now be able to do more hands-on training with electronic health charts and digital record keeping, thanks to a $7,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

The nursing program will use the money to purchase 40 tablet devices, which students can borrow and use when they’re on clinical assignments at facilities like Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

Students used to be able to practice record keeping by helping the hospital or health care facility digitally record a patient’s information. But in recent years, organizations have begun limiting student access to the records, said GCC Nursing Instructor Mary Phillips.

While students were allowed to observe the process, they couldn’t participate themselves, said Phillips. And in a time when health organizations across the country are rapidly switching from paper to electronic medical records, instructors felt they needed to find a way to give their students experience, she said.

First-year nursing students this fall began using a program called SimChart for Nursing, developed by academic publishing company Elsevier. Phillips secured one iPad for the class to share so they could practice digitally charting a patient’s medical information.

Now, students will be able to take the tablets with them into the field and use the facility’s wireless Internet to log into their SimChart accounts. They’ll record real patient data into the program, using fictional avatars in place of real identities, and send that information back to the instructor for review.

It means, instructors said, that mistakes will be treated as valuable learning experiences but won’t impact real patients. Only students and their instructor have access to the SimChart data.

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