Devices & Technology

HIMSS Conference Highlights Informatics

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By Suzi Birz, principal, HiQ Analytics, LLC

At the recent Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference, held Feb. 25 to March 1 in New Orleans, more than 120 vendors defined themselves by the key words “nursing informatics” or “nursing documentation.” Based on this large presence, it was no mystery that nurses are in demand as nurse informaticists, hired by provider organizations, vendors and consulting firms to advise, guide, train and implement information systems.

Nurses were among the thousands in attendance in New Orleans. Nurses came as attendees, presenters and vendor representatives. Building on its history, the HIMSS Annual Conference education sessions and exhibits exposed the attendees to a breadth of new ideas, solutions and technologies. Each year, thousands leave with new ways to approach their current jobs and new solutions to the challenges.

In 2006, the Annual Conference changed the career path of at least one nurse. Sommer Cornell, RN, BSN, clinical specialist at SIS, a provider of clinical information systems for surgery departments, located in Alpharetta, Georgia, attended the conference as a practicing nurse and left with the idea that if she “moved into informatics [she] would have a voice and impact the work lives of nurses working in the operating room.” Cornell found that vendors were trying to hire nurses.

Now, Cornell finds herself working for a vendor, supporting the sales effort doing product demonstrations and meeting with clients.

“I see nurses getting a great foundation by knowing the product and then branching out to more technical roles supporting the development of new products, research roles and taking an activist role lobbying for money to support nurse informaticists in all health care organizations,” she explained.

In 2007, attendees at the Annual Conference were offered the opportunity to attend a session entitled, “A Burgeoning Partnership: The Future of Nursing Informatics.” During this educational session, Paul Foelsch, MBA, FHIMSS, vice president for information services and chief information officer at Mercy Hospital, Iowa City, Iowa, teamed with Jody Gunn, MSN, RN, IS application manager at Mercy Hospital, to discuss the evolving role and the contributions of the hospital’s nurse informaticists as well as the partnership between the nurse informaticists and the chief information officer.

The Role and the Future

Following the presentation, Foelsch stated that “if a provider or vendor functions without a nurse informaticist, they are handicapped. The time to get one is now.”

With respect to the role, Gunn and Cornell agree that the nurse informaticist serves as “translator” and an interpreter, and validates the clinical impact of technologies. Foelsch added that he “would not go back to a time without a nurse informaticist. There are too many topics that are clinical—from pay-for-performance to implementing wireless technologies.”

Gunn and Foelsch predict that the role of the nurse informaticists will only grow in the future as technology becomes even more integral in the delivery of quality care and in the business of health care.

“Nurse informaticists will face an increasing demand on their time to address clinical workflow, interpret data and work on standardization projects,” Gunn explained. “With these new responsibilities, the traditional role of the nurse informaticist as project manager may fade.”

Foelsch sees a climb into the “C-Suite.”

“Over time the path has taken nurses from clinical to project manager to more technical roles,” he said. “As that happens, we can expect to see the percentage of nurse informaticists in CIO roles increase.”

Foelsch and Gunn cited four trends supporting the growth of the nurse informaticist’s role, including point of care technologies; greater integration of health care and administrative systems; quality outcomes and measurement; and compliance.

The Skills

It took Cornell about six months to adjust to her new role.

“The most important skills are problem solving and critical thinking, easily adapting to change, a desire to be involved in creating future technologies and an excitement about automation,” she said. “Some of these were developed and honed in nursing school.”

Gunn agreed: “Skills learned in nursing school provide the foundation for success; however, change-management training is critical for a nurse moving from care provider to nurse informaticist.”

Foelsch added: “Broad courses in hospital/health care major issues and IT trends are also essential. When looking for nurse informaticist partners, the CIO looks for communication skills, clinical background and experience, technical aptitude, enthusiasm and passion.”

In summary, Gunn noted: “Today’s nurse informaticists are planting trees so future generations can enjoy the shade.”



Mercy Hospital Iowa City

© 2007. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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