Situation: The ambulatory provider practice setting presents many challenges for employee follow up during the orientation phase. Meeting with an orientee in-person can be challenging due to the various geographical locations of clinical practices, as well as the varying number of new hire employees or transfer employees an educator might cover. In addition, scheduling compatibility between the orientee and the educator is often a concern. For example, an educator may travel many miles to reach the orientees’ practice location, to find that they need to re-schedule due to illness or unplanned staffing schedule changes.
Background: In the last ten years, the number of ambulatory practices within this multi-regional integrated health system has increased exponentially, creating many challenges for the ambulatory clinical educator. The ambulatory educator team of this system trialed using technology as a way to help overcome these challenges. Several educators piloted using instant messaging to conduct a virtual follow-up meeting with orientees, eliminating the need to physically travel to a practice location. Instant messaging made it more practical to connect with the orientee at an appropriate time, with minimal adverse effects to the educator’s or the orientees' schedule if the meetings’ date or time needed to be changed.
Assessment: Amongst three ambulatory nurse educators there were 154 total orientees in a 9 month timeframe. Out of the 154 orientees, 46 had their initial education follow-up scheduled to be done via instant messaging. Out of these virtual follow-ups scheduled, 41 occurred successfully without a need to be re-scheduled. That’s a success rate of 89%. For the 41 successful virtual follow-ups, a cost savings of $1,318.00 was noted. This includes gas mileage reimbursement and travel time using the average salary of an ambulatory nurse educator.
Recommendation: There were lessons learned throughout the trial, including some situations in which a virtual orientee follow-up may not be appropriate. However, it’s still recommended that virtual orientee follow-up meetings be considered within the ever-growing ambulatory care setting. There is a great success rate with the first attempt at a meeting which improves the scheduling efficiency for both the nurse educator and the orientee. In addition, there is a significant cost savings related to both gas mileage reimbursement as well as nurse educator’s paid work time.