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Two Journeys to the Path of Nursing Informatics

Nurse informaticist

Two nurse informaticists share the journeys that led them to their profession. One had a life-altering experience start her path, while the other’s happened organically; but both have a common thread: the power of education. Regardless of the steps they took, they’re each committed to lifelong learning and improving the lives of others through information and technology.

Read their stories below.

A Medical Error Inspires a Career

Sophia F. Brown, PhD, MSN, RN-BC, CPHIMS, PMP

By Sophia F. Brown, PhD, MSN, RN-BC, CPHIMS, PMP, Project Manager, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Senior Contributing Faculty, Walden University; a HIMSS Nursing Informatics Committee Member

I became a nurse because I died!

At the age of 11 years, a routine visit to the community health center became a near-fatal event. I had a severe anaphylactic reaction after receiving an antibiotic to prevent complications of atopic dermatitis. This life-threatening event changed my life and defined my career path. At that moment, I pledged to choose a career in which I could help humanity.

In high school, I excelled in the sciences and was given a unique opportunity to take a computer class as an elective, which at that time, and in a third-world country, was an opportunity of a lifetime. After high school, I enrolled in nursing school and completed a hospital-based diploma in general nursing.

All along, I walked around with my paper medical records which displayed the following words in red ‘ALLERGIC TO PENICILLIN.’ This was my attempt to prevent getting a second dose of that deadly medication.

Finding a Better Way with Education
After becoming a registered nurse, I found myself in a paper-laden healthcare system. While at the bedside, I felt inadequate because of limited access to information necessary to provide safe care to my patients. Having previous exposure to computers and technology, I knew there was a better way.

Also, I still needed a solution to making my paper records portable. This motivated me to enroll in a program to complete a BSc degree in computing and information technology. The irony of attaining this degree is I had no opportunity to utilize the knowledge gained about technology in the healthcare sector because there was no bedside technology in my home country. So, I took a job in the business sector to develop my technology skills while maintaining a part-time job as a registered nurse.

All this time I longed for an opportunity to improve documentation and communication in healthcare through technology adoption.

Merging Education, Technology and Nursing
I relocated to the United States searching for a way to merge nursing and technology. My quest led me to complete my MSN degree specializing in nursing informatics.

I now have a job in which I work with clinicians to align technology with clinical workflows, select and design clinical documentation systems, implement and support clinical systems, and use system-generated data to optimize care.

While working with clinicians, I noticed a gap in education and research about how technology can create value in nursing care. So, I pursued my PhD in management specializing in information technology.

Today I am educating nurses about how to exploit the opportunities afforded by technology to provide the best available care at the bedside. I also participate in research about how technology improves quality in healthcare and the condition necessary for successful change implementation.

A Desire for Betterment Inspires a Career

Nancy Beale, MSN, RN-BC

By Nancy Beale, MSN, RN-BC; the HIMSS Nursing Informatics Committee Chair

Nursing informatics as a career path, started subtle for me.

As a young clinical nurse practicing in labor and delivery, I often wondered as I used technology, “Who designed this? Did anyone ever consult a nurse about how this technology should work? There must be a way to make this better.”

These thoughts persisted as I was often frustrated with the systems and technologies I used in the delivery of care. I knew nursing could contribute to an improved design of technology and systems.

Opening Doors with Education
My career began with an associate degree in nursing and I worked to complete my BSN while raising my family. I knew more education was key to opening the door of opportunities to share my ideas and insights.

I was fortunate to have professional opportunities on committees, working on projects, in nursing in management and professional organization leadership. These roles, along with a blossoming desire to be a lifelong learner, led me to pursue a non-traditional role with a software vendor when the opportunity came my way. In full transparency, I had no idea what I was getting into or how my career trajectory would shift.

In 2002, I was hired at a company I had barely heard of, now a major EHR system. When I joined, there were just seven nurses on staff. The transition into this new world of software was challenging at first, until I gained exposure to helping our customers.

I was able to master the software, understanding many new concepts along the way, but the most satisfying role for me was translating and communicating the needs of my customers. It felt familiar, in the same way I had helped patients or staff, advocating for them and translating their needs. I had phenomenal opportunities, working with many leading healthcare organizations across the country. This inspired me to pursue additional education.

I completed my MSN, with an emphasis in health systems and healthcare informatics at Loyola University in Chicago. This influenced my decision to pursue broader informatics opportunities. I spent time consulting which led me to New York City. This grew into the position of vice president of clinical systems and integration.

I spent just under six years working with an incredible organization, leading a talented team and working with great leaders. It was a fantastic opportunity to continue my professional growth, leading close to 100 different applications across a growing organization. I gained new knowledge about systems, infrastructure, integration, interoperability and leadership. I continued to pursue active ways to engage in my professional community, volunteering for roles within HIMSS, among my many professional organization memberships. My role at HIMSS has been instrumental in continued connection with my professional network and growth as a leader.

Continuing the Quest for Knowledge
My quest for more knowledge as a lifelong learner, along with six years of commuting between Wisconsin and New York, led me to a professional decision to leave my position in New York, and return to the Midwest to pursue a PhD. I remain connected to many professional colleagues I have met along the journey; these professional relationships are priceless.

Now back in the Midwest, I have reconnected with many of my past clinical colleagues who are quick to share their technology woes. The desire to improve technology solutions, with enhanced quality, safety and efficiency for both clinicians as well as for patients motivates me daily.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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