A new health care portal, dubbed NurseONE, is to launch in Saskatoon in June, the result of dogged efforts by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Health Canada and the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) to provide remote and rural nurses with a personalized interactive web-based resource.

NurseONE hopes to advance patient safety by giving nurses access to evidence-based information through journals and online libraries, online development tools, and notification of public health concerns and advisories for increased emergency preparedness.

But none of that happened overnight, according to Barbara Oke, executive director of the Office of Nursing Services in FNIHB.

“The portal dates back to 2002, just after the Office of Nursing Services was created,” she said. “They were going through the exercise of developing a nursing strategy that would take them forward for the next four years.”

The information management/information technology piece of that strategy involved discussions around a nursing portal, seen at the time as an area where nurses could go to find the most recent information, evidence and critical support to enhance their practice at the community level, said Oke.

“While that work was being done at FNIHB, there was a larger initiative at the CNA and they were talking about the same thing for all nurses. The heads of the two organizations got together and everyone began to see it as a win-win.”

CNA took over the actual development of the portal and FNIHB made sure their nurses and Band-employed nurses were recognized in the development.

“There are approximately 630 First Nations reserves across Canada and there are nurses on each one of those,” Oke said. “Half of them are direct employees of Health Canada or FNIHB and the other half are Band-employed – those are the nurses, through the regional offices, that we work with.”

The challenge in remote communities is accessing information and library resources, as well as having the opportunity to talk to nurse experts on specific issues, she said. That is why NurseONE has such a strong First Nations component as well as FNIHB funding.

“The funding is through a contribution agreement with CNA,” Oke said. “We funded it for almost $4 million over a two-year period. In that period the infrastructure allowing the portal to reflect the needs of nurses in all domains had to be completed.”

The clinical practice area is the most widely known, according to Oke. But there are also nurse educators, nurse administrators or nurse managers and nurse researchers that have to be accounted for. There are also policy experts.

“We wanted to make sure that the portal made sense to nurses,” she said. “The way that a researcher works is different than the way a clinical nurse at the bedside at a community health care centre or a nursing station works. It had to be very user friendly.” Nurses were consulted widely throughout the entire development. “Student nurses provided an interesting perspective because they are going to be in our workplace of the future,” Oke said.

Nurses in First Nations communities tested the portal in February.

“Nurses had the opportunity to provide feedback and to say, ‘we like this, we don’t like that, this doesn’t work, or this doesn’t make sense to me,’” Oke said. “Close to 70 per cent of the nurses’ feedback was exceptionally positive, but the exciting part of it was that we got information to make it better.”

Nurses can also develop their own pages on the portal so that the web sites they visit frequently depending on clients’ needs can be saved to their own pages and they can also develop a continuing competency program file for themselves.

“Until now all of these things weren’t necessarily available in all places nurses worked,” Oke said.

NurseONE is about decision making, according to Christophe Kerv