Clinical Training of Nursing Students Enhanced by Delta's Gift - Fall 2013 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Fall 2013

Clinical Training of Nursing Students Enhanced by Delta's Gift

Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, health care reform has remained a major topic of the national conversation. Elected officials, corporate executives, and citizens representing all demographics continue to debate the particulars of the Affordable Care Act while expressing shared concerns over rising medical costs and overall quality of care.

A major factor impacting the delivery of health care in the United States that has not received considerable attention, however, is the diminishing number of qualified health care workers. A gift in kind presented to Penn State Altoona by Delta Health Technologies, LLC, addresses present and future staffing needs of the health care industry while enhancing traditional classroom and lab instruction of the college’s nursing students. The company’s act of philanthropy will enable nursing students to utilize electronic medical records software designed to document clinical services in a home health environment. Valued at nearly $300,000, Delta’s gift involves 200 licenses for the medical software package entitled ClinicalVirtuosoTM.

Equipped with many features, ClinicalVirtuoso™ enables students to record daily tasks, document an initial patient assessment, establish and conduct a care plan, manage ongoing services, and chart discharges and transfers, among numerous administrative functions. The software is intended for educational purposes in simulated clinical environments only.

“Baby Boomers will not only consume more resources as they age, but many of those who are aging also will be retiring from their jobs as healthcare providers,” said Keith R. Crownover, president and CEO of Delta Health Technologies in Altoona. “The government has been incenting healthcare entities to adopt the use of electronic healthcare systems as part of the solution, and clearly technology must play a role if we are to solve the twin pressures of greatest demand and diminished supply. At Delta Health Technologies, we believe that we can have a positive effect on this situation.”

Through a review of text books employed in clinical education, Delta executives discovered that students were instructed to use paper forms for clinical documentation, a practice that is decades old. Following this standard, students in training updated patient charts with handwritten SOAP notes—an acronym for subjective, objective, assessment, and plan. Executives at Delta determined that Penn State Altoona’s nursing students would benefit significantly from use of after touring the nursing program’s labs.

“A key element of healthcare reform is the use of electronic health records, and yet we have been unable to find any clinical programs at any school in the country that have included the use of automation in the curriculum,” said Crownover, who also serves as chair of Penn State Altoona’s $20 million fundraising campaign For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. “The future employers of our graduates will be expecting all documentation to be done using software programs, yet our students will not have had an opportunity to have hands-on software experience.

“Given the importance of accuracy and liability, students rarely have an opportunity to document the actual care they provide during their clinical field experience. We are fortunate to have a very high-tech nursing lab at Penn State Altoona. Why not give the students the ability to document their case studies and other laboratory experiences in software? This will give them more realistic, practical experience and will better prepare them for the workplace, thus making them more competitive in the job market.”

Delta is currently exploring opportunities for use of the software at other clinical programs within the Penn State system, as well as at other universities throughout the country.

“Ultimately, we believe there may be a commercial market for our software with clinical programs throughout the U.S. and beyond, but our first priority is to give back to Penn State and our local area,” Crownover said.

Suzanne K. Kuhn, coordinator for nursing programs and assistant professor of nursing, said approximately 200 students enrolled in Penn State Altoona’s nursing programs will benefit from use of ClinicalVirtuoso™, supplementing clinical experiences in state-of-the-art acute care facilities. Students already participate in clinical rotations in medical-surgical nursing, orthopedics, neurology, oncology, critical care, psychiatric care, emergency care, pediatrics, and obstetrics.

“With access to ClinicalVirtuosoTM, our students will be able to gain valuable experience with an online electronic record in a simulated environment, enhancing their documentation skills,” said Sharon A. Lacue, coordinator of Penn State Altoona’s simulation lab and instructor in nursing. “At present, our students have limited opportunities to develop these skills when they are working in the clinical setting. ClinicalVirtuoso™ is robust in covering all pertinent areas addressed in an electronic medical record. That’s important because within the next few years, healthcare will mandate application of an electronic medical record. We are excited to prepare our students for the workforce with use of this program.”

The gift in kind presented to Penn State Altoona reflects Delta’s service and outreach mission and Crownover’s strategic vision for the company.

“We often talk about the need to give back to the industry that we serve: care at home businesses—home health, hospice, and private duty agencies,” Crownover said. “Our partnership with Penn State not only presents the opportunity to give back to those we have served, it helps us pave the way for the next generation of caregivers. The students we assist today may be the nurses or therapists who will be providing care for us in the future.”