Belmont Abbey nursing dean aims to improve patient care

Belmont Abbey nursing dean aims to improve patient care


BELMONT, N.C. – Belmont Abbey College’s dean of nursing is trying to find a way to alleviate stress on nurses and avoid mistakes made in hospitals.


What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Carolyn Harmon is researching the unintended consequences of electronic health records and cognitive load in emergency nurses
  • study by Johns Hopkins University finds over 250,000 people die each year from medical errors
  • Dr. Harmon’s grandfather passed away when she was 16 years old from an injury caused by a medical mistake

study by Johns Hopkins University finds over 250,000 people die each year from medical errors. That makes it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

Dr. Carolyn Harmon’s grandfather passed away when she was 16 after suffering a paralyzing injury caused by a medical mistake.

“It took nine months for every system in his body to slowly shut down,” Harmon said.

In hopes of no one experiencing what she did with her grandfather, Harmon spends her days studying how to keep accidents from happening during surgeries and other medical procedures.

Harmon is leading research in North Carolina on advancing emergency nursing and patient care. It’s a different path than she initially dreamed up as a kid, as she was good with numbers and figured accounting was a steady gig.

Three decades after her grandfather’s passing, Harmon is the dean of Belmont Abbey College’s newer nursing program.

“I want to create a diverse team with diverse skillsets and specialties,” Harmon said.

Her research work was recently awarded the 2021 ENA Foundation– Sigma Theta Tau International Research Grant.

“To feel that I was the person they wanted to fund is a phenomenal feeling that is above all others,” said Dr. Harmon.

Her research focuses on the unintended consequences of electronic health records and cognitive load in emergency nurses.

“You’re always watching and monitoring your patients and looking at them for a change in their condition,” Dr. Harmon explained. “At the same time, you use all of this information to inform those critical decisions.”

Harmon says juggling all of that information, especially in a stressful environment, such as an emergency room, can be overwhelming.

“If you miss any of that … and you can’t find the information that you need in the electronic health record because it’s buried,”  Harmon said, “The impact to the patient is possibly death.”

Harmon is still in the early stages of asking nurses about the electronic health record system and figuring out whether there’s a connection between it and medical errors.

“If we can just close that loop, find out the issues,” Dr. Harmon said. “And be able to do an electronic health record redesign to where it’s supportive of those individuals who are practicing every day.”

It’s an important mission in honor of her late grandfather.

“I hope that he’s proud of me,” Harmon said. “I really do.”

Dr. Harmon says the $6,000 grant will fully fund her study by helping her purchase research mailing lists, postcards and reimbursing survey participants with gift cards.

She plans to survey about 500 emergency nurses across the country.



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