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  1. Inman, Diane BSN, RN
  2. Johansen, Martha MSN, RN
  3. Powlas, Karen
  4. Timm, Jane MSN, RN
  5. Turner, Diana


Communication skills needed for the healthcare environment are changing. In the past, poor reading and writing skills made it difficult to use a paper chart. Current computer technology provides many new opportunities for communicating in the clinical setting. Computer literacy has become a necessary skill for efficient use of clinical computer systems. At this large tertiary care setting, a survey was developed and distributed to staff to assess learner needs. Nursing staff identified educational needs for basic computer knowledge, the ability to move between computer functions, and the skills to navigate through specific applications. Based on survey analysis, three educational classes were constructed that addressed the department's specific needs.


Information technology provides great advances to support and enhance nursing practice; however, a gap can exist between the "creation of the new health care enterprise and the end user's ability to fully leverage its potential" (Simpson, 1997, p. 85). The first hospital computer systems developed in the 1960s were useful for administration functions (Bowles, 1997). Today, healthcare budgets for system purchases and implementation average 2% of annual expenditures (Simpson, 1998).


Computer literacy has become a necessary communication skill for efficient use of clinical computer systems just as reading and writing skills were necessary to use a paper chart. Computer literacy is defined as "the ability to exchange information with computers at the level appropriate to the problem the user wishes to solve" (Coffman, 1996, p. 260). The skill needed may be specific to a computer application or may be having the basic comfort with and knowledge about computers to integrate various applications. A common response on a staff survey was "Someone else has accessed a screen I am not familiar with and now I don't know how to get what I need." This was an important clue identifying a gap in the computer literacy of staff.