Challenges faced by professional nurses in accessing information technology in health care facilities for healthcare delivery in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Information Technology (IT) is revolutionizing every sphere of human interaction. IT has changed the way individuals communicate. In the healthcare system, information technologies are considered the key to addressing challenges to healthcare delivery such as shortages of healthcare professionals, and networking. Therefore, healthcare providers need to possess information technology skills, knowledge, and resources to communicate and manage information effectively and efficiently and also to be able to perform their duties adequately in such an information technology age. Nurses, the largest group of healthcare providers who spend the most time with patients, are also frontline healthcare managers and need to have access to IT and should be computer literate in order to perform their duties quickly and adequately. In South Africa, the health system has been slow in integrating IT into healthcare delivery, particularly in rural and remote areas where such services are most needed. A "digital divide" exists, by which access to computers and the internet remain a privilege, and many nurses are unable to use a computer even after completing the computer literacy courses. This study aims to investigate the challenges faced by professional nurses to access and use information technology in healthcare facilities after being trained. Data was collected through focus group discussions conducted with professional nurses from two regional and four district hospitals. Participants who had received computer training offered by the Department of Health were selected to ensure that issues beyond a lack of training could be explored. Focus group discussions were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Content analysis was used to identify themes from the transcriptions. Results show that professional nurses had little access to information technology. Reasons given were a lack of hardware and appropriate software, insufficient training and lack of support, irrelevance of the computer courses, and negative attitudes towards computers. Despite previous computer training, the professional nurses interviewed felt they lacked the skills to use computers confidently in their daily activities. The quality of the training was perceived as inadequate and irrelevant with a lack of ongoing support to cement new skills and build confidence. The provision of training workshops for nurses is not sufficient to ensure that IT will be used for healthcare delivery. On-going support an motivation, among others, are needed to encourage nurses to use IT efficiently.