Diagnosis: Weak computer skills

In this tech tale, some hospital workers must overcome more basic hurdles in the transition to electronic medical records

My experience teaching basic computer skills to newbies doesn't go far back -- it was just three years ago. These days it's easy to forget that there are some people in the workforce who have not had much, if any, computer experience.

At the time, I was part of a tech team hired by a huge hospital chain to implement a new electronic medical records system, and part of our job was to train the medical personnel how to use it.

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We were given six weeks of instruction on this specific electronic medical records system and were then deployed to different hospitals in teams to implement the project in phases. Some of us worked with physicians and nurses in OR, ER, Labor and Delivery, and other units in any given hospital.

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After working with the medical staff at the hospital I was assigned to, I began to realize some of the nurses and physicians needed a different kind of training: a crash course in basic computer use.

I found myself teaching people how to close and open windows, how to print a simple page, and the function of Caps Lock and Number Lock. I couldn't get anywhere close to teaching some of these folks how to learn new software and challenge them with the transition from paper medical charts to an electronic medical records system.

One day, I was teaching a nurse how to order medications using the new software. I explained to her the concept of ordering medicine over the computer and discussed how to use the mouse and keyboard to place the order. Just as I was done saying that, she picked up the mouse and talked into it, as if it were a microphone. I froze in shock for a few seconds and didn't know if I should pass out from laughter or simply turn around and walk away like it never happened. I kept my composure and showed her how to use the mouse correctly.

From what I observed, those who had trouble with basic computer skills were usually either very close to retirement or had received training in other countries. And until we came to implement the electronic medical records system, computers hadn't been a large part of their daily work routine.

Those struggling received more attention from the implementation staff and eventually were assisted by their co-workers, who did learn the software once we left the hospital.

Now when almost everything is becoming electronic, it's helpful to remember that in plenty of professions, some employees need a little extra help getting to know computers.

This story, "Diagnosis: Weak computer skills," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com.

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