IT and e-health is every nurse’s business because it has to be integrated into practice, nursing leader, June Clark, said on the eve of a major discussion at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress this week.

The discussion on the theme “Computerised records – what can they offer?” will be available online at the College website. Professor Clark, a former president of the college and chair of the RCN Information in Nursing Forum, told E-Health Insider she hoped as many people as possible in the e-health community would get involved.

She hopes the session will raise awareness on several fronts: “The first is awareness among nurses that e-health and IT and the introduction of IT into the NHS is every nurses’ business because it has to be integrated into nursing practice,” she said.

“The other awareness that I want to get across to this audience and more generally that electronic patient records must have appropriate nursing content, not just medical content.”

Nursing content, she said, included pre-existing nursing diagnoses for the patient and records of interventions and outcomes. In the case of a patient with diabetes, for example, the electronic record would need to chart progress in teaching the person how to self-administer insulin and manage the condition generally – not just offer lists of blood glucose readings.

“Teaching patients how to manage their lives with diabetes doesn’t show [at present]. The electronic patient record (EPR) makes it possible – in theory at least – to do that at an individual and aggregated level,” she said.

“What EPRs would be able to show is how the outcome differs according to who did the intervention and indeed there’s good research from other countries that shows when you dilute the [nursing] skillmix patient outcomes change.”

She pointed particularly to the work of George Evers in Belgium and Linda Aiken in the US  as demonstrating the effect of increasing or decreasing the levels of professional nursing.

Professor Clark said there was a need to invest in education for nurses now on such issues if the systems were going to produce the right information.

“The reason I’m pushing now is that we won’t ever get it right in the future unless the right decisions are made now and the education programmes are started now,” she said.