Training nurses means mastering a new technology

With more hospitals adopting electronic health records, a simulated EHR system lets nurse educators give students hands-on experience

<a href='' target='_blank'>SimChart’s simulated electronic health record (EHR) system</a> gives nursing students practice with electronic documentation using cases they are likely to encounter in the real world.
  It enables educators to incorporate an educational EHR into their curriculum so students can get the experience they need for today’s rapidly changing health-care environment. Above is a respiratory assessment documentation page.

It’s a scene being played out around the US. In a classroom with dozens of computers, nurses are learning the latest in health-care information technology – the electronic health record, or EHR.

But in this case, nurses are not getting trained to use the technology in a hospital or clinic. They’re learning the technology so they can modify their teaching strategies to prepare our future nurses.

As the US health-care system adopts more and more new technologies, particularly EHRs, many nursing schools are finding that their educators need assistance incorporating EHR training into their lesson plans. Hospitals are using EHRs in increasing numbers — counting on them for everything from basic charting to population health management — so nursing schools are eager to get their nurse educators trained on a technology that educators may not have experienced when they themselves were in nursing school.Fran Phillips

“The average age of a nurse educator is 56,” said Fran Phillips, Marketing Manager of Customer Marketing for Elsevier’s Nursing & Health Professions (NHP) group, based in St. Louis. “When they were in nursing school, they didn’t have EHRs; now, their students must know that technology, and that’s created an education gap.”

As of December, more than 300 nursing programs have adopted SimChart, a simulated EHR system that gives students practice with electronic documentation. There are more than 20,000 users and an average of 6,700 daily sessions of students using SimChart.

The adoption of EHRs is being driven in part by the US government’s incentives for health-care providers that can demonstrate they are putting these systems to “meaningful use.”

Recognizing the coming trend for EHR education several years ago, Elsevier acquired an EHR education company called Nurse2, or Nurse Squared, in 2010. After converting the software into an online tool and renaming it SimChart, Elsevier began selling it to nursing schools around the nation. At that point, many nursing schools started asking for help training their educators on how to use the product.

“Before the educators could teach their nursing students, they needed to know how education-based EHRs worked,” Phillips said. [pullquote align="right"]Being able to take part in hands-on training has given us all a head start on the needed skills to implement SimChart in our clinical nursing courses. — Linda M. Perfetto, Director of System Nursing Curricular Operations for the Connecticut Community Colleges[/pullquote]

In early 2012, Elsevier’s NHP Customer Marketing team ramped up these training sessions, offering them as a benefit to the nursing schools that purchased SimChart. Phillips and a group of nurse educators with experience integrating SimChart into their curriculum began giving training  sessions across the country, sometimes for as many as 40 nurse educators in a session. Elsevier conducted 18 multi-school sessions in St. Louis alone. In all, Elsevier conducted 234 training sessions, including on-site sessions and webinars.

The sessions are popular for several reasons, Phillips said. Participants are able to learn the system basics and discuss in an open forum how to approach teaching their students. Also, in the sessions with multiple schools, participants can find out how their peers at other institutions plan to implement and use SimChart. Jillian Zumwalt

At a recent train-the-trainer session in a computer lab at Middlesex Community College in Middlefield, Connecticut, Phillips joined Dr. June Thompson, SimChart Product Director at  Elsevier, and Jillian Zumwalt, Education Solutions Consultant, and 12 nurse educators from six different colleges throughout the state.

“Being able to take part in some hands-on training … has given us all a head start on the needed skills to implement SimChart in our work with students in our clinical nursing courses,” said Linda M. Perfetto, MS, APRN, BC, CNE, CNOR, Director of System Nursing Curricular Operations for Connecticut Community Colleges, who convened the group.

Thompson ran the class with Phillips and Zumwalt supporting. As Thompson ran through how to enter basic patient vital signs into SimChart, they watched the “students” closely to make sure they were all following along at the same pace. The online SimChart program allows nurse educators to train, track and test their students. [note color="#f1f9fc" position="right" width=400 margin=10 align="alignright"] Christopher Capot

The Author

As Director of Corporate Relations, Christopher Capot (@Chris_Capot) heads up public relations for Elsevier’s Health Sciences division. He has been a public relations and media relations professional at agencies and corporations for more than 10 years. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist, last working as a business reporter at the New Haven Register in Connecticut. He works in Elsevier’s New York office.[/note]

“These folks catch on quickly,” Thompson said. “They’re not used to the technology, but once they get their feet wet, it gets much easier and faster for them.”

SimChart is modeled after actual EHR software used in hospitals and medical offices. It translates course content into the practical, everyday tasks students will encounter in the workplace and allows students to practice documenting, monitoring and analyzing patient care in an interactive learning environment.

Using SimChart, educators can build a consistent, integrated learning experience with three key components:

  • “Case Studies,” which challenge students to document care and make clinical judgments from one phase to another
  • Simulation, which helps students build and edit patient records and even integrate those records into simulations and skills lab activities
  • “My Clinicals,” which enable nursing students to document the care of patients they see during their clinical rotations.

“After completing SimChart training, nurse educators (have) all of the tools and resources to implement it into their curricula and educate students with confidence,” Zumwalt said.

Elsevier’s Fran Phillips, June Thompson and Jillian Zumwalt contributed to this story.Vital signs documentation page from SimChart

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8 Archived Comments

Fran February 13, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Thank you for your response! I'm interested to know if you are a nursing student at a school that uses SimChart? Or, how you would use SimChart to help your research!

Pat April 9, 2013 at 3:45 am

I am trying to find a simple way to teach faculty members learn how to use SimChart I would like to do a powerpoint presentation to teach eacy steps to use and teach the software

Fran April 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi Pat, I can help! Please contact me at

Pat April 10, 2013 at 6:17 am

Thank you, I will email you.

Fran May 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Hello Anne, Training is complimentary with SimChart adoptions. Please feel free to contact me directly for additional information. Thank you! Fran

tricia February 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm

this is very helpful. I am a full time student, mother and working woman. it is very hard to find time for everything that has to be done. this could be a very helpful research tool for me to use.

Anne Mutombo May 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I am intresting in your training. How much is the training?

thank you,

anne Mutombo,RN

Micah October 7, 2013 at 9:53 am

I am a full time nurse and planning to take on a teaching career. This simulation tool would be very useful. I'll keep a note of this.

Fran October 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hello Micah, Thank you for writing. I'm pleased to advise that SimChart has been adopted by hundreds of U.S nursing schools and is being used throughout their program. If it is not available at the school you have chosen, please let us know! Good luck with your career change