“Don’t you like nursing?”
I got this question often from other nurses when I was working as an inpatient RN and had recently dropped to part time to take an internship in health IT. I was devoted to my patients and staff, so it came as a surprise to others when I took a detour from that path.
“I love being a nurse,” I responded.
“Well, then why are you leaving us?”
I was frustrated. After a code, I stayed hours after my shift to document manually and by memory. I admitted patients who did not know their histories and could not access their records. I received transfers from other organizations, uncertain of where the patients were in their treatment plans and delaying care while our staff played catch up, repeating tests and treatments. I spent more time charting what I did not do than what I did. Although informatics itself is important, how it was structured into my work took precious time from my patients.
This frustration pushed me to ask questions, much in the same way I assessed a sick patient I did not yet understand. I connected to our quality department and saw how our care was being captured and used by the hospital. I asked why workflows and systems were designed the way they were if what we wanted to capture – the reality of care in real time – was not being recorded. I asked where our data came from and why some of it was missing at the point of care.
This was the moment I realized that without someone who had been there, it was impossible to design something to support that work.
Those moments putting the data next to my own care made me realize the impact I could make by taking a step back from my patients and joining other health IT stakeholders. I have seen how information and technology can support both the patient as well as the provider.
As more of nursing’s work is supported and influenced by health IT, there is a need to communicate and provide insights as to how the work is done. Listening to each other and working together saves lives, both at the bedside and behind a computer. I increase that communication between stakeholders in health IT, and while I may not have to wear a stethoscope to work every day, I am most definitely still a nurse.