Marin General Hospital nurses warn that new computer system is causing errors, call for time out
Marin Independent Journal, 5/15/13
Nurses at Marin General Hospital have asked administrators to put implementation of a new computerized physician order entry system on hold until glitches can be worked out and more training provided to nurses and doctors who use it.
Nearly a dozen nurses attended the regularly scheduled meeting of the Marin Healthcare District board Tuesday night at Marin General to voice their concerns. The district board oversees Marin General, but it does not involve itself in the hospital's day-to-day operations.
"Orders are being inadvertently passed to the wrong patients. People have gotten meds when they've been allergic to them. This is dangerous," said Barbara Ryan, a Marin General registered nurse, who works in pediatrics and the intensive care nursery. "We're not asking you to get rid of it. We're asking you to place it on hold."
But Lee Domanico, who serves as the CEO of both Marin General and the Marin Healthcare District, said, "I'm confident that in spite of the implementation issues, we have a system today that is safer for patients than our old paper system, and it will get even safer as we gain experience with it and work to fix some of the glitches we've experienced."
Ryan, who serves as the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United representative, was one of four Marin General nurses who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Ryan said the nurses warned in advance of the system's roll-out on May 7 that nurses and doctors had insufficient knowledge of the system. Ryan said due to problems with the software nurses had been unable to open the program at home to practice using it.
"Lo and behold the problems that we were worried about have happened," Ryan said. "We're looking at two-hour preps for surgery and two- to three-hour discharges; skilled nursing facilities calling back saying, this really doesn't make sense; the wrong meds ordered on the wrong patients and then given to the wrong patients; the inability for nurses to be able to see what the doctor ordered and double-check it."
Ryan said nurses have and will continue to file "assignment despite objection" forms due to the system. Nurses file the forms to document formal objections to what they consider an unsafe, or potentially unsafe, patient care assignment.
"We will take patients but we will object to the assignment because it is unsafe," Ryan said. "This system is making it unsafe."
Marin General nurse Susan Degan said, "This is not about resistance to change. It's about accountability. My most important role is that of patient advocate. I am held accountable when errors are made."
Domanico acknowledged there have been some technical problems with the Paragon system, including making it possible for nurses to open from home. And he said the software is not faster than the old paper system.
"So yes," Domanico said, "it is causing stress for nurses who have heavy workloads, who are learning how to use it, particularly in areas where we need to speed up the computer."
But Domanico challenged the suggestion that patient safety at Marin General had been compromised.
"I would have no hesitation about entering this hospital tonight," he said.
Board member Ann Sparkman, who previously served as in-house counsel at Kaiser Permanente, said nurses at Kaiser struggled at first when a new computer system was introduced there.
Sparkman said, "It's just to be expected."
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