A nursing informatics research career in the making – personal reflections and insights

Citation

Georgsson, M. (July, 2018). A nursing informatics research career in the making – personal reflections and insights Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 22(2).  Available at http://www.himss.org/ojni

This reflection piece is meant to serve as an inspiration for nursing informatics students and others with an interest in the field on how to shape their informatics research career. It is drawn on my own personal experiences and journey as a nursing student going into nursing informatics and how this has led up to where I am now.

First steps

My nursing informatics research path started as a student nurse where I got interested in how technology could support nursing in various ways. One of my first experiences was when I attended a health informatics lecture by one of my later mentors which served as an inspiration. This was in the late 1990’s and involved beginning research on electronic health records (EHRs) and highlighted how important it was for health care professionals to get engaged in and part of implementing these new supportive digital health solutions. I also got to experience working hands-on with virtual reality and forced feedback haptics in the rehabilitation of patients suffering from stroke and saw how this could be applied through telemedicine technology.

After I completed my nursing degree I went to work as a nurse and got to experience first-hand how important technology was in advanced nursing care. This was especially true when I worked as a district nurse and in advanced homecare in the field where it became clear to me how important it was to get access to the patient data directly on location using  a meaningful graphical user interface. Other environments where technology was especially prevalent was in the ambulance when I worked as an ambulance nurse. Here we were able to send ECG readings directly to the emergency room and the cardiologist which made it possible to start thrombolysis treatment while still in the ambulance, saving valuable time during on-going myocardial infarctions. I was also involved in sleep medicine as a research nurse where I saw the value of technology in collecting vital biomedical data such as oxygen saturation, brain activity, heart signals and respiration rates and how to interpret and analyze the resultant data through polysomnography. All of these various experiences,(as well as many others), led me to understand how deeply health and technology were intertwined which spurred me to want to learn even more. I therefore decided to further my education with a degree in Health Informatics, coupled with computer science studies, and finished a Master’s degree in Interaction Design.  

My experience as a home care nurse sparked my interests in mobile health and chronic disease support for patients as a research focus as I saw how important it was as technical support in the field and when working with patients. From a nursing point of view it was evident that some type of portable solution was needed that could aid and support decision-making on location. When I got to spend some time as an Intern with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Manila working with tuberculosis patients, I saw first-hand what benefits mobile technology could have for patients, as well as its potential in disease management and prevention. As there was little infrastructure in place but many mobile phones in use, it was clear that these could offer a great support in reaching out to patients.

Present undertakings and interests

The recent completion of my PhD, where I investigated different mobile health solutions for diabetes patients, has also brought with it many different insights including how important usability and application personalization are for patients. Despite patients’ strong interest and desire to use them in their disease management, usability concerns were present throughout that hampered patients interaction. This demonstrated to me that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done in this area (Georgsson, 2018).

Another insight from my experiences as a PhD student is how important it is to make use of various experiences and take advantage of all opportunities that are provided. I was able to be part of several interesting research projects during my PhD studies which gave me hands-on experience working with patients to understand their needs when using mHealth solutions to support disease management. I was able to join a RCT study on text messaging for diabetes patients and saw how mobile health solutions could influence the disease outcome with improved self-management and satisfaction. I was also involved in usability tests with patients in one-on-one sessions. It became clear that it was very helpful to be a nurse who understood the patients’ disease needs as well as their technology support needs.

I also got the opportunity to be involved in several organizations during my PhD studies. Some of these included working as a student representative for the NIWG (Nursing Informatics Working Group) at the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) which taught me a lot about leadership and collaboration in the nursing informatics community. To be part of the SEB (Student Editorial Board) at JAMIA was another very fulfilling experience since I was able to review important papers in the field which provided me with the opportunity to see where the research is heading. Not only did it show me how a prominent scientific journal operates but also how senior researchers work which taught me important research and publishing skills. There are countless ways to engage and get involved as a student which have really helped me get a great understanding and grasp of the research field overall.

Future goals

I am continuously amazed by the many different opportunities that are available to nursing informaticists within industry where these solutions are developed; health care organizations where decision making and implementation of these technologies occur; and in academia with research and education. It is clear to me that there are many areas where nursing informatics competencies are vital. For my own part, my goal is to continue within academia and hopefully be involved in the education of future nursing informaticists who want to enter this exciting field, as well as continue my research on eHealth and mobile health solutions and support systems for elderly and chronically ill patients.

References

Georgsson M. Toward patient-centered, standardized, and reproducible approaches of evaluating the usability of mHealth chronic disease self-management systems for diabetes. Doctoral Dissertation in Applied Health Technology, Blekinge Institute of Technology doctoral dissertation series, No 2018:03.

Author Bio

Mattias Georgsson, PhD, MSc, RN has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and Master degrees in Health Informatics and Interaction Design. He completed his PhD in Applied Health Technology in the Spring of 2018. His research interests involves eHealth and mHealth solutions to support chronically ill patients with a special focus on usability.