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What Do Nurses Want in a COW and a WOW?

By Sarah Lietz | Published Oct 27, 2020 | 8 min read

Nurses are trailblazers in the workforce, carving new paths, and delivering optimal care to every patient they serve. With so many tasks on their plate, concern over the function of their workstation shouldn’t be one of them.

COW (computer on wheels) and WOW (workstation on wheels) are essential components in patient care and engagement. When created with proper ergonomics in mind, they can also boost productivity and efficiency, prioritize safety, and make for better user experience.

Today, our team went directly to the source to uncover the top elements nurses look for in a COW and WOW. Let’s dive in.

Each station needs to be simple to clean.

Sanitation is high on a nurse’s list of priorities, especially during COVID-19, where hospitals and medical facilities initiated additional cleanliness and sanitation measures.

The carts should be made from materials that are manageable to clean, sanitize, and disinfect, all of which undergo unique processes. Check out another blog where we delve into our recommended disinfectant products that properly clean the device and won’t tarnish your cart’s finish. Want more cleaning tips? Download Altus’ free infographic, which details everything you need to know about cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing your cart.

Proper cleanliness isn’t just a luxury; it’s a requirement to remain compliant with medical-grade equipment as well as prioritize the safety of medical professionals and patients alike.

Equipment must maximize space efficiency.

Hospitals aren’t swimming in storage space, so nurses are looking for equipment that can store easily. What does this look like? It might be enhanced storage from designated compartments within the cart itself or a sleek design that doesn’t add excess bulk.

Hospital hallways can get crowded, meaning nurses don’t want carts that take up more room than necessary. Anything that can be done to centralize essential items and minimize space is preferable.

Carts should express a depth of functionality.

The days of single-use carts are history. Nurses aren’t simply using carts for recordkeeping and note-taking, mobile workstations assume several functions depending on the department that uses them, from computer compatibility to medicine storage to patient records, and more.

New workstations like registration carts are also sporting scanners, printers, even signature pads to improve ease and functionality. Some workstations also support multiple monitors and have applied extended rotation capabilities for keyboards and screens, giving nurses and patients better access to crucial data. Dual screens have been especially useful in the wake of the Telehealth boom, allowing medical professionals and patients enhanced accessibility.

These ergonomic features improve the nurses’ experience, which directly translates to better patient care.

Long battery life is a necessity.

With so much vital information attached to the workstation, the last thing that a nurse should worry about during a busy shift is the cart’s battery life. It’s essential to have a cart with a reliable, high-powered battery source, as it supports many functions in the patient-care process.

There are many options for battery charging depending on the powered cart you choose. Most modern powered carts need to last at least a full 12-hour shift.

Additionally, providers should have accurate knowledge of when their station’s battery requires a charge or is running low. State-of-charge indicators, like the one integrated in the handle of the Altus cart, are becoming more and more popular as they can detect when the battery is running low and can alert providers to the estimated time the battery will last. Many even include software that shows the overall working condition of the battery, which could indicate when it is time to replace it.

Nurses want built-in scanner capability.

Scanning barcodes is a regular part of nurses’ day-to-day tasks. Barcode technology has made a huge splash in the medical field over the last decade. It has been used to increase patient safety and identification, as well as advance operational efficiencies. A workstation that features scanning capability enables nurses to use this necessary tool when treating patients. Scanner ability also reduces additional technologies and weight—decreasing fatigue, and increasing performance.

Workstations should be flexible and adaptable.

Nurses don’t stand still and neither should their workstations. Successful workstations need to prioritize ergonomics. Even knowing this information, we found that many nurses cited needing to put their entire body weight on their workstations simply to adjust them up or down. Not only is that task arduous, but it’s also incredibly inefficient and often causes injuries. Workstations should have the flexibility to adjust up and down and rotate side to side with ease. Several functions add to workstation versatility like,

  • Electric lifts
  • Rotating keyboards and trays
  • Swivel wall mounts
  • Sit to stand capabilities
  • Vertical vs horizontal monitor support
  • More reliable wheel technology

With the average day shift nurse walking 4-5 miles during a 12-hour work period, their workstations have to be able to keep up with them, not slow them down. Adjustability is a crucial part of optimizing ergonomics in workstation technology, something Altus takes seriously.

Repairs need to be simple and straightforward.

No one wants to wade through complex technical manuals to fix small errors that could pop up, meaning workstations must be easily repaired. Given the central role that they play in a nurse’s job, a lengthy repair process would bring more inefficiencies and add undue stress to shifts.

The best way to keep your workstation running well for years is to practice preventative maintenance and undergo proper cleaning measures. Be sure to regularly send your cart to IT and maintenance departments to keep up with software updates, fine-tuning, and other routine maintenance measures.

Size shouldn’t be compromised.

In the chase for efficiency and space concerns, workstations still need to be large enough to give nurses adequate space to perform their tasks. One specific element many nurses noted as desirable was placing the keyboard in a separate compartment. That frees up the top of the cart, allowing for better use of the space.

When it comes to workstations, it’s all about how space is utilized. It’s critical to keep making innovations that best suit the needs of the people using them day in and day out.

Workstations have to be durable.

Let’s face it: medical spaces can get messy and equipment must be able to tolerate a certain threshold for wear and tear. Workstations shouldn’t be delicate or made of cheap materials, they have to be able to handle normal day to day needs. Sometimes carts bump walls or get knocked into other pieces of equipment, so they should be able to withstand regular levels of abrasion.

Carts, no matter how durable, aren’t indestructible. Be sure to take care of your equipment and follow any recommended maintenance guidelines to keep it working longer.

Accurate devise tracking is beneficial.

Workstations can be expensive, and it’s important for many nurses that their equipment remains within their unit. A tracking system can help nurses locate where their workstation is at all times. This feature is especially helpful at the beginning and end of shifts when the product changes hands.

Innovations in the healthcare space are mounting as the coronavirus has introduced new challenges to the industry. Our team at Altus is working hard to meet the needs of this dynamic environment and create products that are safe, durable, and ergonomically sound. If you’d like to learn more about changes in healthcare delivery due to COVID-19, including what we are doing to stay ahead of the curve, tune into our new webinar series.

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