5 Steps to an Easier EMR Conversion: A Nurse’s Guide
By Jennifer Larson, a contributor
Making the transition to a new electronic medical record (EMR) system, or upgrading an existing system, is a monumental task for any practice or health system—but it is an important step to improve efficiency and patient safety. And nurses play a key role in the process.
As a chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO), Linda Harrington, Ph.D., DNP, RN-BC, UXC, FHIMSS, FAMIA, has been involved in much electronic health record (EHR) conversions. Some were conversions from a paper system to an EHR, and others were from one EHR to another.
“The experience is never the same, but the lessons are clear: the better the planning upfront, and the better the execution of that plan, the better the conversion,” she said.
Your own nursing experience can prepare you for a significant way to be involved in one of these important projects.
According to Karen Schechter, director and assistant professor in the online healthcare manager and health administration program at Maryville University, organizations that hire nurses to come in and help with the EMR training process benefit because nurses can relate to the people they are training.
“Most likely, they have been in their shoes before and understand the challenges and opportunities this transition represents,” she said.
Ultimately, the goal for trainers is to sell the users on the new system and make sure they can use it correctly. But that won’t happen overnight. Nurses and other trainers have to use a combination of skills, including problem-solving skills, good communication skills, and teaching skills. And they may encounter some resistance, so it’s important to be prepared.
“People can be very emotional when change occurs,” said Nicole Mohiuddin, MSN, BSN, RN-BC, FHIMSS, central region director for the American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA).
Making the transition: 5 steps to success in an EMR job
If you’re a nurse with expertise in informatics or electronic medical records conversion, you may be interested in seeking one of the many EMR jobs for nurses out there, either through a staffing agency like NurseChoice or working directly with a system vendor. If hired for travel nurse EMR assignments, you could be working as a trainer or filling a clinical position while other nurses are trained on the new system.
Here are five steps that will help you succeed in any EMR conversion job:
- Learn about the organization in advance. Do your homework about the hospital or healthcare system where you’ll be working if you’re not already employed there in some capacity. Check out their website, recent news articles, social media posts, and read up on them, suggested Mohiuddin. You’ll get a better sense of the culture and their priorities, and it can help build rapport more quickly when you already know about their plans to, say, build a new patient care tower or that they just earned Magnet hospital status.
- Understand the challenges that face a hospital or healthcare system when embarking upon an EHR conversion or upgrade. “The greatest challenges include staff resistance to change, ability to address unexpected hiccups in the transition, possible need to duplicate systems during the transition, additional time and resources associated with the training and ‘go live,” said Schechter.
- Be flexible. If you’re working as a travel nurse or traveling as an EMR vendor specialist, you’ll be staying and working somewhere unfamiliar. You may have different hours than you’re used to and may run into some other challenges along the way. If you can be flexible and pivot quickly when you encounter a challenge, you’ll be more successful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either.
- Be an advocate for the new or upgraded EMR system. Some people may need some convincing, so be prepared to do a little advocacy. “You need to show the benefits of the system and show all the outcomes that can be achieved with it,” said Mohiuddin. Once they understand the benefits of the new or upgraded EMR, they may be more enthusiastic about learning to use it.
- Meet people where they are. Depending on your specific job and the EHR vendor, you may be involved with “train the trainers” sessions, or you may be training end-users. Either way, you will likely have people with a wide variety of learning styles. Some people are auditory learners, others are visual, and others may need hands-on experience to grasp the material. Some people are digital natives, and some are not. Some staff may do just fine with a demonstration or a webinar and some resources, but you might need to spend some one-on-one time with some individuals.
It can be helpful to know in advance: does the organization where you will be working include nurses and other clinicians in the conversion process? That can definitely affect the implementation process.
“A savvy leader of any EHR conversion knows to include end-users in the entire conversion process, from vendor selection to design nuances to implementation and ongoing changes,” said Harrington. “In most EHR conversions, nurses are going to be the largest number of end-users, as they are by far the largest number of clinicians…So, the opportunities for both issues and successes are greater among the population of nurse end users, making them essential participants and leaders in conversion projects.”
Want to try it?
If you are interested in working with EHR conversion projects, there are several options available. One possibility is reaching out to EMR vendors about training and implementation positions.