The UIC Health Informatics degree program encompasses all of the Health Informatics sub-disciplines, including Nursing Informatics, allowing nurses, and other healthcare professionals to complement their patient care expertise with a comprehensive informatics education.
Experience the Industry’s Premier Informatics Program
- CAHIIM Accredited– the first master-level health informatics program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management education (CAHIIM)
- Recognized – the nation’s largest health informatics program
- Experienced – nationally recognized, industry experienced faculty
- Connected – elite network of classmates and alumni at the forefront of the industry
- Flexible – enables multidisciplinary communication among students where expertise may be expanded to include the attitudes/perceptions of professions outside health IT
Why I Chose UIC
“My work is hard but extremely rewarding. My patients hold a very special place in my heart. I love my job, but I want to do more. I want to expand on my passion for the art of nursing and do even more for the patients we care for. As a result, I’m looking to broaden my impact as a nurse and help develop technologies that will improve the quality of the care that we provide to our patients. Now, instead of helping just one patient at a time, I can help 100s, even 1000s, at a time.”
Nurses & the field of Health IT
As health care evolves into a digitally based industry, there is a need for the unique perspectives a nurse can add to shape the development of the systems that directly impact the nursing discipline. Around the world, hospitals and other health care organizations continue to invest substantial financial resources in information technology (IT) initiatives including advanced clinical systems, electronic health records and systems to address patient safety and quality. In order for these technologies to be as effective and efficient as possible, a nurse’s clinical insight is needed and highly valued by organizations. Because of your clinical background and medical expertise, you are the ideal candidate for the unique jobs being created to fill this critical need in the health care sector. Through your experience, you are more sensitive to the concerns of the nursing staff than someone with a non-nursing background and would better understand how a new technology could be used to address nursing automation issues.
As a talented and experienced nurse, there are numerous unique career paths available to you in the health care industry. The Health Informatics program at the University of Illinois at Chicago can prepare you to pursue any of those career opportunities and implement information systems that enhance the quality of patient care provided throughout the health system.
Choose the Degree that’s right for you
Our Master of Science in Health Informatics can equip you to lead the planning, implementation, and optimization of health information systems for major health organizations. This 14 course master’s degree program is designed to groom the leaders in the transformation of health care information technology.
Our Post-Master’s Certificate in Health Informatics graduates have the potential to become highly proficient in the creation, operation and optimization of health information systems. This seven course graduate-level certificate program is perfect for nurses who already hold a master’s level degree.
Nursing Informatics Jobs
One of the advantages of earning your master’s degree or certificate from the University of Illinois at Chicago is that you will qualify for many different types of positions at a wide variety of organizations. Our health informatics program is designed to not only focus on the implementation and optimization of the information systems that support clinical practice, but it works to create the infrastructure that connects and enables the flow of critical information to and from each of the stakeholders in a patient’s care.
It is comprehensive enough to complement the skills of those with a nursing background, while also aspiring to prepare those from a non-nursing background to make the transition into a new exciting nursing informatics career. As a result, you will find opportunities within hospitals and other health care providers, public health organizations, research laboratories, medical software firms, insurance agencies, pharmaceutical companies and education institutions.
What is Nursing Informatics?
The nurse’s role in patient care has evolved, and so has their role in the use of technology to improve health care delivery. Nursing informatics is the sub-discipline of health informatics that applies information technology to the skills and work of nurses in healthcare. It integrates the science of nursing, computer technology and information science to enhance the quality of the nursing practice, through improved communication, documentation and efficiency.
Assisting in all aspects of a patient’s nursing care from admission to discharge, technology is drastically altering the ways nurses diagnose, treat, administer care for, and manage their patients. The integration of information technology into nursing enables the appropriate flow of data collected by nurses, improving access to patient information at the point of care, and enhancing nursing abilities to benchmark, monitor, and audit quality measures. With nursing informatics, the passion for nursing, technology, and innovation leads to improved patient outcomes and higher quality patient – nurse interactions.
Nurses that want to shape and improve the technology of the nursing practice have the opportunity to merge the two fields through our online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree program. Those more interested in improving patient data and the electronic health record (EHR), are able to do so through our Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Health Information Management.
The Advancement of Nursing Informatics
0:35 (SP) Viewing, selecting and testing your audio. So, you have the ability to listen in either via the telephone or the mic and speakers, and you also have the ability to test your audio setup as well using that link. If you’re using your telephone to call in and listen to my voice, just make sure to click on that radio button for using the telephone, and if you don’t know what the telephone number is, if you’re watching on here but you can’t hear me yet, use the dial and the access code number there just know that it’s a little bit different for today’s Webinar. Audio PIN to speak if you want to speak. We do advise that you put in questions via the questions box so that we can take note of them during the Webinar. Please feel free to enter in the questions at any time. We’ll be monitoring those. You can also raise your hand as well. And just as a friendly reminder, we’ll be doing a Q & A at the end of today’s session.
1:27 (SP) So, just going over the learning objectives for this Webinar, and for the agenda so you get a feel about what I’m going to talk about today. UIC had asked me just to share my personal background, job experience and how I came to transition from being your run-of-the-mill nurse to now working in informatics, so I’m going to do that a little bit. I’ll talk about that for a little bit, but I do want to discuss the importance of electronic health records. I’ll refer to them as EHRs during the course of today’s Webinar. And then about how important and how significant it is that we have nurses involved in healthcare IT. Alright, and along with that, if you’re considering a career in informatics, just a couple things to keep in mind, a couple lessons learned from my transition. This is just my personal view in terms of what I saw and my lessons learned on how I transitioned, so I hope that it can help you out as well. Just as a friendly disclaimer, I am going to be referring to you as all healthcare professionals. I’m assuming that the audience out there – whoever is listening to me – are healthcare professionals or nurses especially. Hello, nurses out there. And so I’m gearing my Webinar based on the fact that you guys are healthcare professionals.
2:50 (SP) So just going over my background and my experience. So I started out as nurse. When I first started going into the career of nursing, I didn’t have informatics on the brain. I didn’t have anything else on the brain other than wanting to work in the hospital and wanting to work as a nurse at the bedside, serving patients for the rest of my life. I’ve been pretty much working in some sort of healthcare delivery site since I was fourteen, and I think that all of those jobs that I had, either from when I first started as I was fourteen. I remember I was in the kidney dialysis clinic and I was the one that would go over to each kidney dialysis machine and take all of the dirty tubing once the patient was done with dialysis treatment for that day, and I would put it back into the dirty utility room to get cleaned and sterilized.
(SP) From that experience onward all the way until right before I transitioned into informatics, all of those direct care experiences contributed to what I know now about the healthcare delivery system as a whole, and how people interact and how informatics plays a role in that. So, I worked as a nursing assistant. When I started nursing, I was an inpatient care nurse, both on the floor and in the ICU, and then I also transferred into ambulatory care nursing. I worked in an outpatient specialty practice. It was in my inpatient care nursing when I first experienced healthcare IT and being a part of it.
(SP) Our hospital at the time was going live with an EHR, and they were looking for superusers to help learn the system a little bit better and to help acclimate the staff as appropriate. I was made a superuser, not by choice. But actually I was forced into it. They said, “You’re the youngest nurse that’s working on the floor, and you probably know computers as a result because you’re the youngest, so you’re going to be our superuser.” End of story. That’s how I became a superuser. So I started becoming a – oh! I’m going to speak up. Sorry about that. Thank you, and I’ll up my volume here I hope that helps as well.
(SP) So I started as a superuser and I got introduced into the world of electronic health records or EHR, and that just pretty much opened my mind to a whole new world. And it started my wheels turning in my brain about “Hey, if they designed the system this way, then the nurses could save a step there.” And “Hey, if they designed the system this way, then the residents would be automatically notifying the attending of something.” So it just started my wheels spinning and I just decided from then on that I wanted to be involved as part of this movement toward healthcare information technology.
(SP) So, as I was working as a direct care nurse, I still hadn’t left the bedside at that point, I became more involved. So becoming a superuser, doing staff education whenever there was an upgrade or a new functionality. Always wanting to be involved. Saying “Hey, if you need help, let me know.” That’s what I wanted to do. And I decided that I think this is what I want to do full time. If I get so much excitement out of this then this is what I want to do, but I’m still a little bit green in terms of my knowledge, so how can I get more knowledge about this whole new industry?
(SP) So that’s when I started my education at UIC. I did a dual program of healthcare informatics on the BHIS side, and then nursing administration in the College of Nursing. And the reason why I did that is just saying “I don’t know where this informatics thing is going to lead me, so I’m just going to fall back, have a fall back and have nursing administration just in case, because I know the need for nursing administrators out there as well.
(SP) And even though it started off as my fallback, the nursing administration education definitely helped in terms of where I am today because it helped me get an overall sense of organizational improvement, operations, human resource management, financing and budgets. All of the things I was never really privy to because I was in direct care, and the once I got privy to that information in my administration program, it definitely helped in understanding then how do you use technology to improve not only the direct care experiences but also the operations, the administration and that sort of thing?
(SP) Midway though my education, I then decided to transfer into direct care – from direct care into an informatics role. So I worked as an informatics nurse initially at an integrated delivery system. It was a couple of hospitals, and then tens of – I think it was a good 70 or 80 clinics and ancillary departments going live with an integrated EHR and multiple technologies there. And then I transitioned into a community healthcare network, which is where I work today.
7:51 (SP) So going on to the next slide, my current position – my title is a very long one Clinical Informatics/Implementation Specialist – whew! – at the Alliance of Chicago Community Health Services, also a long title. I do apologize. What we are is we’re a health center controlled network of community health centers, meaning that we are a network of community outpatient clinics that – and we are – we were founded and we are owned by the community health centers that we serve. So we operate like a non-profit. We serve the needs of the people that own us. We’re not a consulting firm. We’re primarily Federally Qualified Health Centers, meaning that we receive money from the government in order to provide care for these at-risk patient populations. And it started in Chicago, that’s the name – Alliance of Chicago – and we’ve now expanded to 28 organizations, all community health organizations in 10 states. And primarily those are FQH as well.
8:49 (SP) So my current position, because there was such a long title, it’s actually wearing two hats at times, so I just figured I’d start with one hat and then the other, so the clinical informatics side is how I usually describe that – it’s getting clinicians information to deliver patient care in a safe, efficient and best practice manner.
(SP) So my primary roles under that bucket when I’m wearing that hat is first, EHR clinical content development. We do use one specific vendor as our EHR provider but we do not use the “out-of-the-box” clinical content that was provided by that vendor. When I say “clinical content” I mean the screens or the displays that the nurses or the providers see and use when they’re documenting and making decisions on patient care. We’ve developed our clinical content solely in house, specific to our needs of community health care. And so, a lot of my enjoyment and my dedication is specific to clinical content. So, it’s kind of a great transition from when I was a nurse using the EHR and saying “Why are the screens built like this? I would have built them differently.” And now I have the ability to build them in the way that nurses need it, that providers need it, that medical assistants need it, that behavioral health therapists need it. So that’s one of the great, fulfilling parts of my job. And definitely the clinical care, the direct care experience helps in terms of designing the content so that you know what the nurses need. You know what the providers need, and you can provide them that design and aesthetic appropriately.
(SP) I’m going to group research data and performance dashboard all in one subset as well, so we’re not just worrying about the data that’s going in, so that when the nurses are entering the vitals, when providers are entering in orders or medications, that sort of thing. When therapy providers are entering in progress notes. So not just worrying about the data that’s going in, but also extracting the data out. The EHR is such a robust tool in terms of being able to extract out data, not only as something that you can see and something that is legible but something that you can track and trend over time. Something that you can run statistics on. Something that you can run performance dashboards assessments to say, “Hey, how many of my diabetic patients have a hemoglobin a1C under 7? What percentage of those patients and how can we improve our patient care as a result of the data that’s been provided? So that’s also a very fulfilling point. And with the data being extracted out, also participating in research initiatives, of let’s say, the nurses or the providers are doing a specific intervention during a course of treatment. How does that affect their compliance to care that day? And seeing the comparisons there. So that’s also a great part of my job, is being able to be involved in these types of projects.
(SP) And then also innovation projects, so any sort of new, emerging technologies, any sort of new work flows. When I talk about workflows, I say your day-to-day. What happens on the job, when you’re working seeing patients, and how can we make that process more innovative, more efficient, more safe, more quality. So that’s one hat.
12:13 (SP) And then the other hat that I wear is the implementation specialist. And when I talk about implementation, it’s essentially what it says: how to implement health IT to the clinical arena. So a big part of that is project management. There’s a lot of tasks that are involved in terms of managing a project from start to finish and what needs to get done in order to deliver the best quality EHR tools to those clinicians.
(SP) Training and staff education, so the EHR is not necessarily something that you can walk up to and learn right from the get-go. It takes work. It takes effort. It takes training, and so helping to provide training and staff education to those clinicians, that’s also what I do.
(SP) Go live support. So right when you turn on that system, and that system goes live at that organization, they’re not going to know it and they’re going to need that support on that Day One. So being there, shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, walking in with that provider, walking into that bedside room with that nurse and providing go-live support to help them learn about the EHR.
(SP) Maintenance and optimization, so one of the things that I’ll bring up as part of this career discussion is that when you implement health care IT and specifically electronic health records, the work is never done. I cannot emphasize that enough. The sky is the limit in terms of how you want to improve, and how you want to innovate that tool into a better, efficient, safe quality tool, and so a lot of what we do, once we bring an organization live is maintenance and optimization. How can we improve? How can we get better?
(SP) And part of that is workflows assessment. We talked about workflows a little bit earlier. Looking at what you as a clinician, or you as a health care professional do on a day-to-day basis, and how can you use that healthcare IT tool to make it better? Make it safe? Make it more quality? To reduce redundancies? That sort of thing.
(SP) Along with that comes change management. Obviously, over the past ten years, this especially has been such a huge momentum changer in terms of healthcare IT invading the healthcare industry. And so it’s a big change at the end of the day. Something new is coming in. It disrupts your status quo, and how do you manage it so that you can learn about it, you can see how you can use it in your daily practices and it becomes your new status quo. So a lot of what we do with organizations and staff is change management. So, how to manage the change, how to proactively perform some tasks so that people are prepared for the change. When unexpected occurrences come, how do you troubleshoot? How do you prioritize? And then, now that the change has occurred, how, – how can you get better?
(SP) And with that “How can you get better?” is the organizational improvement consulting. We have seen EHRs completely transform organizations. Operations and human resources, how to use your resources, your staff, your tools better as a result of now having this electronic health record? And so we do a lot of talking with leadership teams and with staff on how to improve your organization as a result.
15:33 (SP) So, those are the two main hats that I wear. And I’ll talk about why nurses are important. One of the benefits also that I’ll talk about is – I just showed you on the past couple of slides – is that there’s great variety in terms of what I do on a daily basis and that’s one of the benefits of working in this position and working in healthcare IT is that depending on the day, depending on what I’m addressing, depending on the project at hand, I could be doing a multitude of different things, so that variety there helps keep me alive in my job, keeps me interested and keeps me thinking about “Is this the best path that we should do to improve care?”
(SP): So I’ll talk about why nurses are important in healthcare IT, but not just nurses. I’ll address this to all the crowd that’s listening today – healthcare professionals in general, whether you’re a nurse, you’re a physician, you’re a medical assistant, you’re a healthcare consultant, you’re an insurance agent that works with health insurance. Why are all of you important in healthcare IT? I’ve tailored the slides, though, toward nurses because it’s the largest professional occupation in the healthcare delivery workforce. So we, as nurses, are the most prevalent workforce out there so if something’s going on in healthcare IT, we should be involved with it. We need to be directly involved with how it shapes our industry as a whole. There are varied disciplines and specialties within nursing, so the ability understand the complexities and the nuances of patient care. That is also essential for a healthcare IT profession. Just because understanding those nuances, understanding where you may take one fork in the road versus another. That can also help in terms of identifying what tools, what healthcare IT tools are out there to design and implement.
(SP) And then also, that vast knowledge base. So knowing – nurses working at the front end. You’re at the bedside. You’re in the exam room. You’re on the surgery bed. You have a vast knowledge base in terms of the inpatient – the impact on patient care, the day-to-day workflows. What happens day-to-day in that hospital, in that clinic, in that mobile health van in terms of how healthcare is conducted and how to communicate with interdisciplinary roles and varying types of people. That’s especially important in a job involving healthcare IT, especially an informatics role because communicating the human aspect from a human level of why healthcare IT is important, why informatics is important helps the technical aspects in terms of implementing stuff. If you can break it down on the human level, on the clinical level, on the patient care level because of these skills that you develop in nursing or in clinical care, that can definitely benefit you down the road if you decide to go into an informatics career.
18:21 (SP) When we were designing this Webinar, we got a lot of questions on what aspects of electronic health record implementation that a nursing informaticist or a clinical informaticist may be involved in, so I’m going to go over those as our next couple of slides.
(SP) So first, organizational goal setting. Before you even have the EHR, before you’re even shopping around, looking into what do you want to achieve as an organization, as a hospital, as a clinic, as a network – what do you want to get at? Because there’s definitely a lot of different tools out there. There’s so many different vendors out there. So many different healthcare IT innovations and implementations out there, that you first want to look internally to see what exactly you want to do with the technology, and then based on that, then cater your technology choice into it. So going into vendor selection. Nurses and healthcare professionals can make a great impact in this because they can help bring that realistic approach to “This is what we do on a daily basis, and this is what’s realistic. How can you bring that tool so that it meshes well with our day-to-day? Our clinical workload, that sort of thing.
(SP) Vendor selection. There’s so many different vendors out there, especially with this advent of electronic health records, so shopping around. Helping to look at what functionality is available. Nurses and clinical professionals can help play a role in this just because they understand the clinical workflows in terms of what exactly you need when you’re on the bedside. Do you need a wireless solution? Do you need this as point-and-click friendly? Do you need the ability to free-peck, and does this vendor provide it? So having front-end staff be involved in the decision making, that’s always great too. And then, as an informaticist, if you have that front-end experience, you can also help to make that selection.
(SP) Components of the implementation, we got a lot of questions in planning this Webinar in terms of “How long does an EHR implementation take?” And really, it just depends on – I have some of the components here – but it really just depends on your specific organization and what you want to accomplish.
(SP) I’ll go over a couple of them here. How big? How small is your healthcare organization. How specified are you? Are you one specific practice? Are you an interdisciplinary practice? Medical? Dental? Behavioral health? Community? Case management? Do you have all of those roles and you want to bring them live with an EHR? Just depends on how big and how specified you are. Are you going to do a phased roll-out or a big bang? Phased roll-out meaning that you bring certain parts of the electronic health record live at one time versus the big bang, where you bring it all live at once. Are there interfaces and other products involved? Most likely, you’re going to be involved not just with one vendor but with multiple. There’s multiple different functionalities out there and multiple different systems, and these systems are not necessarily built to talk to each other. So are you going to involve that in the get-go? And then what staff, financial resources and degree of customization do you want to do? Those are other components that affect the timeline and the span of your implementation.
21:44 (SP) Then, once you’ve got all that under your belt, you know what exactly you want to do and what bandwidth you want to do it, project management, meaning what are the tasks you need to get done in order to achieve that implementation to go live.
(SP) Workflows assessment and reengineering. When we talk about workflows assessment, it’s looking at what you do now and how you can improve it for the future. Not only using that tool, but also improving your operations. You have a big opportunity during EHR implementation to improve your operation. So if you have the chance and you think that your culture at your organization can take it, can you do that? So that’s where we talk about the re-engineering. So then looking at how you’re going to use that tool in the future.
(SP) EHR design, build, testing and preparation. It does not come ready out of the box. I have yet to see a vendor’s that comes ready out of the box. So you’ve got to do a little bit of prep work, some design work, some build work and testing and prep in order to get it ready for go-live.
(SP) IT network installation and preparation. This one, you may have the question in your head of, “How would … Why would my nursing knowledge be involved in this?” Well, really it’s looking at the solutions that you need at the bedside or at the exam room, and nurse informatics professionals with a background in nursing or a background as a clinical care professional helps in that because you can tell them, “Hey, I need to be able to access this information on one workstation, and then go over here and access it.” “I need this to – this computer to be on wheels.” “I need this solution to be wireless because I’m going back and forth between the bed and then the nurse’s station and then the surgery OR. I –” So helping to contribute. You do hae the ability to contribute in terms of this IT network setup. And that knowledge goes a long way.
(SP) And then training and staff education and go-live. We talked about that earlier.
23:46 (SP) And then I talked about earlier, once that you implement an electronic health record, your work is never done. I cannot emphasize this enough. I talked about – I have here on this slide a couple different subjects here, from where you can potentially optimize your EHR. One is workflows, so not only looking at your current processes to see how they can improve further now that you have the EHR tool there, but also new lines of service or patient care if you’re providing new operations in a specific department. You have new resources to look at. How can you use your IT tools better?
(SP) Upgrades and innovations. There’s always version upgrades. Upgrades to your IT network. If you want your healthcare IT tools to be more interface-friendly. To integrate well. The interoperability solution. So this is going to be a big one as we move forward in our healthcare system in the United States because it’s not only about the data that we put in in our one little site because any given patient that we see doesn’t necessarily see providers solely at your organization. They go elsewhere. They see other doctors. They go to other hospitals, other clinics, mobile vans, clinics, pharmacies, so making that information so it’s transient with how transient the patient care is.
(SP) And then training. We talked about before, about how the EHR is not something that you can get done first pat, right when you look at it for those first five minutes. It’s going to involve a lot of training. So doing refresher training to the providers, advanced tips, if you have superusers at your organization, meaning those that can help the staff as well but are still providing direct care. Giving them tips. And then also embedding a new employee training plan, so when new employees are hired at your organization, working with HR to say “Not only, ok here’s the orientation process, fill out that benefits work and now, how are we going to embed EHR training into that new employee orientation?”
(SP) With all of these subjects a background in healthcare and especially in nursing definitely helps because you have that background of knowing how the clinic works, knowing how the hospital works, knowing how the OR works. And how to embed that into these plans to at the end of the day, the clinician that you’re working with understands where you’re coming from and can learn from it.
26:20 (SP) So moving on to “Are you interested in an informatics career?” I just pulled out some characteristics, skills and qualities that I thought would be beneficial if you are interested in this career. Things that you can see in yourself now. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same path, regardless of if I’m a healthcare IT informaticist, or if I’m a nurse at the bedside. Are you dedicated to improving the quality, delivery and safety of patient care. Because that’s at the end of the day what we’re doing. The EHR is just another tool. It’s like the stethoscope, the EKG monitors. The EHR is just another tool that you do to get information on the patient and to make decisions about the patient. So are you dedicated to improving patient care?
(SP) And in informatics, are you open to technology, innovation and new ways of thinking? There’s going to be a lot of different ways that you can implement technology in healthcare. There’s never necessarily one right path, or one best path. There could be a multitude of solutions, and it could be a new way of thinking that you’ve never really thought about before in your organization. Are you open to it?
(SP) Are you willing to embrace change and lots of it? This is a really big one. If you like the status quo, if you like just staying where you’re at, I don’t know if necessarily an informatics career will necessarily be the right path for you, because there is so much change. There is so much technology advancing at such a fast rate and it’s so hard to keep up with, so I’ve embraced change actually as my status quo, expecting the fact that I’m going to experience change on a day-to-day basis, at an hourly basis because of how much is going on in the healthcare industry right now.
(SP) Are you committed to working toward solutions? So, one of the reasons why I’m in informatics is not just to talk about, “Well, this is a problem, and this is a problem, and this is what we’ve been doing for the past five years.” But how can we get better? How can we solve these issues and solve these problems that we’re having in the healthcare IT – healthcare industry right now.
(SP) Are you able to translate and bridge the gap between clinical and IT for operational improvement? That’s also one of my responsibilities to working as a clinical informaticist, is to be able to translate the needs between what somebody at the bedside or the exam room needs, and then what the IT and the EHR is capable of. And being able to translate that also helps to engage the clinicians that you’re working with because if they’re able to understand – if you’re able to break it down to their clinical level in terms of what they need to know to do their job and how this can benefit their job and their patient care. That helps to bridge that gap. So a lot of it is actually being a lot more communicative sometimes than when I was doing direct care doing patient education.
(SP) And then are you participatory in consensus and decision-making? This is definitely not a profession where it’s an “us-versus-them.” It’s definitely a team effort. The sum of all the healthcare IT professionals’ parts is greater than its parts, really. You may be representing, as a nurse informaticist, you may be representing the nursing role, but definitely, it’s going to be a profession where you will participate a lot in consensus decision-making, so looking at the financial, looking at the clinical, looking at the data reporting, looking at the organizational improvement in order to make the best decision for the organization.
29:52 (SP) And just a couple of other things about informatics education. Are you committed and dedicated? I think this goes without saying for any sort of higher education, regardless of the subject. Are you committed and dedicated to learning and committing your time and effort toward the education? I think that’s a big one especially for those that may be performing or attending education while they’re working full-time, while they’re working part-time, while they have families and life events and milestones going on. If you’re committed and you’re dedicated, you can really put your mind to it and get through the program with flying colors.
(SP) Are you eager to learn about topics in a different subject and style as compared to your traditional nursing school education? So this is geared toward the nurses again. Hi nurses. An informatics education is going to be a lot different than nursing school. It’s going to be a different style. It’s going to be different subjects. A lot of these classes weren’t online when I was in nursing school. I didn’t have any classes online. So are you eager to learn and embrace the differences in terms of this new type of education?
(SP) Do you want to build on your professional skills. I think not only was it about learning, about informatics, but also building on my skills as a day-to-day professional. I think my education helps with that.
(SP) And then we talked about openness a little bit ago, but open to hearing different perspectives, viewpoints and ideas. You’ll – you may hear different perspectives from various healthcare IT professionals, not just nurses, not just clinicians, and so are you open to hearing about what their struggles are and how they view the healthcare industry. And how to improve patient care.
31:41 (SP) And just – I just want to talk about what I got out now that I’m graduated from my UIC program. I performed the Master’s of Health – or Master’s of Science in Health Informatics, and just now that I’m looking back – Monday morning quarterbacking it, if you will – what did I get out it and what did I like out of it? I love the fact that the faculty and staff were, have worked or are still actively working in healthcare IT, so you have people that have worked in the trenches. A lot of them were direct-care providers before they transitioned into healthcare IT as well, so you really have that real-life experience there.
(SP) Broad spectrum representation of healthcare and IT professions. That’s another part that I love, is the diversity of this profession’s background. Not only having classmates as nurses, consultants, programmers, IT analysts, physicians, pharmacists, behavioral health therapists, you name it. I probably had a classmate that came from that background. So as a result, you get the different perspectives, to look at the big picture.
(SP) The course activities, the assignments, the homework, it mimics real-life workplace scenarios. That was also a great benefit when I was in the health informatics program. It really helped me to prepare me for my job now. At first, at first it was so difficult to think of assignments in that way but now I’m so grateful of the fact that it was real-life workplace scenarios.
(SP) And then providing a balance of the big picture view and then details for given topics. I think they did a really good job in terms of pointing out the global picture, the industry picture, the big picture and then, for each given topic, going into the nuances and the details as well.
(SP) So that was just my personal experience, I hope I shared some information that will hopefully help you down the line, and I will open it up for questions, so thanks for listening.
33:41 (Narrator) Shannon, thank you so much. That was wonderful. It was informative. It was comprehensive. And thank you for sharing with me and the audience your experience, your knowledge and your recommendations. I have actually received questions via the chat function while you were going through your presentation. So I’m going to start off and ask the first one, which is: “Coming from a critical care … coming from a critical care nurse that thrives on face-to-face teamwork, how did the program curriculum prepare you for your transition from bedside care to virtual collaboration?”
34:21 (SP) Oh, that’s a great question, so whoever asked that, thank you. I also do thrive on the face-to-face. I always prefer talking to somebody versus going into it virtually. I think at first, my first semester, it was a little bit difficult because that was something that I had to get used to. It was my first online program. I really had never done any sort of online education. I think it really just helps to just jump in it. And just get acclimated with the virtual classroom setting, the discussions, the chat boxes, that sort of thing, and really trying to convey professional communication that you would in a human manner, but just through these discussions, through email. I would say definitely keeping professional and trying to be using – being succinct in my discussions but then also using very good vocabulary on what exactly the point I was trying to get at. That goes a long way. I am from a critical care setting as well so I appreciate your viewpoint in terms of thinking about that. That’s really keen insight there.
35:32 (N) Wonderful. Another question. There are quite a few coming through, Shannon, so “I’m an RN with 32 years’ experience, currently director-level administrator, have been accepted in the MS Informatics program at UIC, and will be starting this fall. Are there any tips for success with this transition? ”
35:53 (SP) Oh, well first of all, congrats on your career successes thus far. That is such an accomplishment for where you are at. I will say any tips or lessons learned? Just jump into it with open arms and a willingness to listen, be eager about learning. That – that’s probably the one thing that I would definitely say, just jump into it and get involved because the more that you’re involved, the more you’re committed to it, the more that you’re going to get out of it. It’s really what you put into the program. Acclimating yourself to Blackboard, which is the application software for where the classes are located, that also helps because if you’ve never used Blackboard before, it can be a little bit daunting at first, but then once you get to know it, it’s really easy. And those are the two main things, just being open and honest, and then also sharing your experience as well. It sounds like you have a lot – a great wealth of information, both from your direct care experiences and then it looks like your administrative experiences as well. And that’s what people are going to learn from; it’s your different perspective, your take on things, and then how to press forward in the healthcare IT industry. So thank you.
37:05 (N): Great. Shannon, “How does the healthcare informatics degree differ from a degree in nursing informatics? Is there a big difference?”
37:14 (SP) Well, good question. I think it just depends on how the curriculum is set up. I don’t know that much about the nursing informatics specific curriculums. I think it just depends on the school that you’re looking at. I would say – I can talk about the UIC Master of Science in Health Informatics program, is that it really looks from a global perspective, looking at all the different professions out there and seeing what can benefit the healthcare IT industry as a whole, and the inserting those sort of topics in the lessons learned. And I think that’s also a benefit as you transition into your professional career in informatics because you will be working with people that are not of your kind. So I hope that helps.
37:58 (N): I think that’s great. So you’re able to learn from other people’s backgrounds and experiences. That’s always good.
38:04 (SP): Right. Right.
38:05 (N): “Does nursing informatics actually include a – excuse me, I’m sorry – Does nursing informatics actually include computer programming? Would I need to learn actual code for computers?”
38:19 (SP): Well, I guess it depends on the type of career that you’re going into. In my specific current position, I had to learn actual computer programming because the clinical content that we developed is a proprietary computer programming system, and I learned that on-the-job. I literally was going in there in the same classes with computer programmers and they picked up on it easy and I picked up on it not-so-easy, I will say. But in terms of nursing informatics education or the health informatics education, I don’t believe that you’ll have a computer programming – again, you’ll have to look at the curriculum specific to that school or that college.
39:03 (N): Ok, well this is a good question. “There are so many health IT certification programs out there. Which one prepares you the most, or which prepares you the best for nursing informatics?”
39:16 (SP): Oooh. I don’t know – I don’t know if I could necessarily choose one. I think – I’m sorry to keep on giving these vague answers, but I think it just depends on what you want to focus on, and where you want to focus your talents and your efforts in your profession or in your education, and then looking into the certifications that may apply best. I don’t think – there isn’t one blanket rule out there and I think I find that as a good thing just because there’s a lot of different certifications that can provide you with different subsets of knowledge and I think that all of those contribute as a whole for the positive of healthcare IT.
39:56 (N): Great. “I recently transitioned from a med-surg pediatric ortho unit into clinical informatics, as a clinical informatics analyst. Do you feel that the MSN or the Master’s of Science in Health Informatics course, or degree rather, at UIC would be beneficial in my current position?”
40:15 (SP): Well, first of all, peds ortho – I’m ortho and neurosurg and spinal cord injuries are my background, so I’m a little bit biased, so hello to that fellow nurse out there making that transition. I transitioned from adult ortho/sports med to then working as an informatics nurse. I think it’s – the education definitely helps. I think when I was working in the ortho clinic and in sports med clinic, I was a little bit confined just because it is a sub-specialty and you sometimes just see the people that you normally work with – the surgeons, the physical therapists, that sort of thing. I think the education provided by any sort of given health informatics program can help look at the big picture in terms of looking at the healthcare IT industry as a whole, because as you transition into making decisions and making best practice recommendations for your organization, you’re going to be forced to be thinking about the whole organization, the entire patient care process, the whole. And so I think definitely any sort of education that helps expand your knowledge base, I think, the better.
41:25 (N): Ok. That makes a lot of sense. And I think that speaks to this next question, which is, “How does an advanced degree in health informatics provide a competitive advantage for nurses?” And I think you just covered that, so –
41:38 (SP): Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. Expanding that knowledge base, all that.
41:42: (N): And so what are the advantages you see of a master’s degree over a certification? So one being, you know, maybe a quick few courses for certification versus a master’s degree, which is going to be a lot more in-depth. If you want to go over what you think the advantages are of the master’s degree, that would be great.
41:59 (SP): I think – I think – truly, to put it simply, it’s the more knowledge that you have, the better. With certifications programs, it’s probably shorter requirements. Not as many semester requirements there. Or credit requirements. And that initial certificate is great, but I think a master’s program with a degree can help provide additional knowledge base that you wouldn’t get in the certificate program. It’s the same thing. I have a master’s certificate in nursing administration, and I didn’t do the full master’s degree in nursing administration. And I think the same thing there. I think if I finished off my degree there, versus going the certificate route, I would have a lot more knowledge about nursing administration. So –
42:46 (N): Ok. Great. Great answer. “I’ve been in an informatics role since 2008, so I no longer provide direct patient care. Will this be a detriment in my studies or even further education in this – in informatics?”
43:05 (SP): No, I don’t think – I don’t think at all that it would be a detriment that you’re not in direct patient care anymore. I think you provide your own perspective in terms of how you see the healthcare industry, blanket looking at patient care processes as a whole in the United States and then what you can take out of healthcare IT and how that benefits our patient care processes. I think everybody’s perspective is unique and I don’t think anybody’s personal profession or background is a detriment, but it’s rather just what makes you different. What makes you individualized and a different perspective to share.
43:46 (N): Ok. “What do you think are the greatest challenges about a program that is 100% online?”
43:55 (SP): I think first, it’s just getting used to the way that you communicate. I – as a nurse I- I always prefer direct eye-to-eye, in-person, physical contact with a person. You know, I’m very – I wish you could see me as I was Webinaring. I’m very gesture-like whenever I’m speaking. I’m very visual in terms of when I speak, and I like actually looking at people and seeing their patient’s eyes – or seeing the people’s eyes whenever I’m speaking. So, I think getting used to that is a challenge. And then, I would say just the overall commitment. I mean, it – it definitely – you are committing to taking time and doing assignments when other people may be having fun or spending time with their kids, they’re doing something like that but if you commit yourself to this education, you can balance all those things at once. And you can still have a fulfilling life and also a fulfilling work atmosphere and also a fulfilling education as the result of it. I think getting used to the communication is probably the primary one. And then once you get used to it, then you’re fine.
45:07 (N): Now, did you work full-time while you were –
45:11: (SP): Yes, yes –
45:12 (N): – enrolled? Ok, so that was – you worked. Quite a few people asked that.
45:17 (SP): Mmm hmm. I worked full-time and I was working – at first, I was working three twelves, and so that helped because I had four days off, but then I transitioned into a role that was business hours, five days a week, no – no exceptions. So yep, I worked full-time the whole time.
45:36 (N): Ok.
45:36 (SP): And also got married so planned a wedding!
45:38 (N): Oh wow! Well, congratulations!
45:42 (SP): Oh thanks!
45:43 (N): Oh, no problem. Now “About how many hours were you studying while enrolled?”
45:48 (SP): Hmmm. I think it just depended on the classes because some semesters I took maybe four credits and other classes, I took eight, so it just exponentially went up when I took the more credit hours that semester.
46:07 (N): That makes sense. And I think this is a question that’s asked quite often. I’m going to take a couple more questions, if that’s ok with you and then we’ll close out, but this particular person has over 20 years’ experience of bedside nursing and is considering changing focus into healthcare IT. “Do you think that there is an age limit to transition into this field?”
46:31 (SP): No. Absolutely not! I think their – whoever that person is – their specific background – twenty years of bedside nursing – you’ve seen how healthcare progresses and you’ve seen how the industry has progressed as a whole and to be able to have that experience, that can help transform healthcare IT, and how you view your informatics career as well. So definitely not.
47:00 (N): Ok. “I currently work as an ED informatics nurse, but have been asked if I would like to move into the IT Department as a systems analyst. Do you think this will be more beneficial for my informatics role or for gaining more informatics knowledge, or do you think that this is almost a step backwards, in a sense?”
47:19 (SP): Again, I have to give a vague answer that I think – I think a clinical analyst at one organization is different from a clinical analyst at another organization. It’s just looking at the job responsibilities that they’re going to be giving you. Are you still going to be using your informatics skills, what you’ve learned as an informatics nurse to working in that clinical analyst role? I think it just depends in terms of how they set up that position.
47:48 (N): That makes sense. OK, I’m going to close out with one last question, and that is surrounding salary. I’m sure that is a question that our – that’s on many people’s minds and that is, “Is this time and investment worthwhile in the end as far as salary is concerned? Do you see there being an increase in salary when moving over into healthcare IT? Or into a nursing informaticist role?”
48:17 (SP): Yep. I will also give a vague answer to that, but I will support it in specifics so you guys don’t have – I actually anticipated that question in prep for this Webinar, so I went onto the HIMSS Web site. It’s himss.org. That’s the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society website – a professional organization out there. And I looked on what the average salary was for a nurse informaticist on their last survey, and it was averaging around $75K, I believe, but again, depends on the region, so the geographic region, how many years’ experience, your education – do you have a bachelor’s? Do you have a RN? Are you an LPN? Do you have a master’s, whether it be in nursing or in something else? It just really depends. And then also, I will say that it depends on where you’re coming from. Because you’re – the salaries for bedside nursing versus administration versus an IT analyst versus a consultant are completely varied, so it just depends on where you’re coming from, and then where you’re going to go as a result. But, so sorry to give you another vague answer but go and research the salaries out there for your specific region. I think that’s definitely another recommendation I could give.
49:35 (N): That’s definitely the case. I think every region offers different pay scales, so I think it would be good to research that information prior to making any sort of decision. Well, thank you so much, Shannon. Thank you so much for your time today. This has been so comprehensive and informative. We really do appreciate it. There are some questions still open-ended on this end, but I believe that most of them can be answered by our admissions team here. So, and if there are any questions specific to this presentation, we’ll definitely forward them over to Shannon and respond back to individuals via email. But thank you so much again for your time, Shannon. Thank you to the audience for spending some time with us this afternoon, and we look forward to doing it again next month. Goodbye!
50:26 (SP): Take care, everyone.