In a busy hospital environment, getting access to the notes for your audit data can be a haphazard and temporary affair. Always carry a handheld computer. Most Palm compatible machines come with ExcelToGo while Pocket PCs come with Pocket Excel. Data you enter there will easily transfer to your desktop computer’s Microsoft Excel.
To add up all the cells in a column, click inside the cell that you want the sum to appear in. Type in =SUM(. Keep the shift key pressed and click inside the first cell in the column. Then type a colon. With the shift key still pressed, click at the bottom of the column. Finally type in a closed parenthesis and press the return key.
When you scroll down the page, you still want to see the row of your column headings. Click on the number of the row underneath the row of your column headings. Then, from the Windows menu, click on freeze panes.
To create a graph, click in the top left corner of your table. With the shift key pressed, click in the bottom right corner. Press the F11 key, and Excel creates a chart for you. To over-ride its choices, click twice. For example to change the font of the x axis: click twice on the axis, click “Font” and choose your font.
Excel is great for analysing and charting data – but for serious data collection and storage, Microsoft Access is king. If you have two or more tables, or your table is rather long, consider Access. The program can import your Excel data. Create a new database in Access. From the “File” menu, click “Get External Data”, then “Import”. At the bottom of the dialogue that appears, you will see the label “Files of type”: click to its right, and scroll down to Microsoft Excel (*.xls) .Click there, and find your files. Access will guide you through the rest of the process.
published in the January 1st 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal’s Career Focus