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Paper becomes an antique
Storage sites for pamphlets and other educational materials are quickly becoming an archaic method of distribution with the advent of the intranet. More and more institutions are finding that their in-house network of computers can provide easy access to teaching materials, thus improving educational encounters.
There are many benefits to putting educational materials on-line, says Nita Pyle, MSN, RN, associate director of patient education at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. After putting its patient education materials on-line last year, the education department found that it cuts time in preparing for an educational encounter. "The materials are easily accessed by the professional. They don’t have to look for a book, go to the library, or look through a notebook," says Pyle.
It’s also easier to update the materials or add new information. Recently, a new intravenous ambulatory pump was purchased for patients to use at home, and teaching instructions were needed. The clinical area contacted educational services, and by working together, they had a teaching sheet on-line by the time the new pump was implemented.
However, there can be lags in implementation time of on-line materials due to busy schedules just as there is when working with the clinical areas on print materials, warns Pyle. To help streamline the process at MD Anderson, the medical director at the beginning of the project appoints one person with expertise on the topic to approve the materials. The person may or may not be a physician. In addition, deadlines also are agreed upon up front.
Another benefit is that on-line materials meet multidisciplinary teaching needs because the information is indexed according to categories, such as diagnostic tests, pain management, or nutrition with specific information sheets listed in each category. The on-line database also makes it easier for each discipline to create an educational plan. "They can organize their teaching points because the information is all there by category," says Pyle.
Staff education essential
The one challenge in using technology is that it changes practice patterns, warns Pyle. That’s why staff training on how to use the on-line database when it was first implemented was intensive. First, the patient education department sent specific directions to all nurse managers and administrative directors to share with staff.
The instructions included some hands-on tasks so staff could practice accessing materials. For example, they would be asked to find the pain management category and then be directed to look for and print a specific information sheet. 7"It was interactive so they would actually go through the directions on how to load the icon, access the information, and print it. Following that effort, we began conducting inservices for each of the areas," says Pyle.
Although time-intensive, the inservice was vital. An instructor from the patient education department sat down at the computer on a unit with five or six people at a time demonstrating the process of accessing and printing patient education materials. Each person at the inservice then went through the process hands-on.
In addition to inservices, Pyle looked for and found advocates for the new practice throughout the medical center. She selected professionals who saw patient education as an important part of their practice. She also solicited advocates from the multidisciplinary patient education committee.
An on-line tracking mechanism shows how many people access the database, what particular topics are accessed, and whether materials are printed. "We have seen a linear increase over the past year in not only accessing the database, but also printing the materials," says Pyle.
For more information about putting educational materials on-line, contact:
• Nita Pyle, MSN, RN, Associate Director, Patient Education, MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe, Houston, TX 77030. Telephone: (713) 792-7128. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.