During a recent IM chat with HL7 Standards blogger and registered nurse Jennifer Thew, I sarcastically asked, “Why do nurses get a full week in their honor? Seems like overkill to me.”
While I would love to share with you her reply, I’d rather not offend those who try to avoid offensive language or the blatant overuse of exclamation marks. Here’s the censored version of her reply: “Because they deserve it.”
(I’ve known Jennifer for several years, and I should know by now not to pick fights with loyal Chicago White Sox fans.)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2011 there were 2,724,570 RNs employed throughout the country. In comparison, there were 305,590 physicians and surgeons in practice. Despite overwhelming numbers in RNs’ favor, physicians are still directors of patient care, or the facilitators of patient care, and rightfully so due to their education and specialized training.
Due to their influence in patient outcomes and patient satisfaction scores, health facilities are developing key positions of influence for nurse leaders, who are playing major roles in health IT decisions and who help decide what applications are purchased and how they should be introduced to primary users, typically nurses.
“Having a nurse to lead HIT implementation is the lynch-pin in whether the healthcare facility will get full potential from its technology,” Thew said. “To get clinical care providers on board, the new systems and technology need to meet their needs and workflow. And they need to have tech-talk broken down into nurse-speak so they can understand the purpose and goals of the new tools. A nurse leader has the built in ‘street cred’ to get RNs on board.”
It’s fitting that during this National Nurses Week, we recognize RNs and applaud RN trailblazers who have fought for their place at the leadership table. Relatively new roles in informatics have been created to serve as direct connections between the clinical and IT teams, and will serve to validate the efficacy of new technologies, speeding the health system’s transition from a fee-for-service model to one that improves care quality, which can be aided by analysis of the massive amounts of data produced by health IT applications.
According to an interview Jennifer conducted with Cheryl D. Parker, PhD, RN, FHIMSS, Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO) at Rubbermaid Medical Solutions, CNIOs educate Chief Nursing Officers and other members of the “C-suite” about how technologies actually work, because they often do not have the time to learn the intricacies of each product.
According to Parker, as a CNIO she serves as the clinical health IT advisor to the leadership team, helping them understand how the applications are used in patient care. She said CNIOs speak for bedside clinicians, implement and optimize use of health IT, coordinate strategic and organizational use of technology, and understand the technology’s effect on patients.
There’s no debate about the key roles RNs play in patient care. Thankfully, health organizations are now recognizing the need to bridge the divide between the developers, programmers and system managers on the IT team with the end-users on the caregiving team.
If CNIOs and other RN members of the IT team are able to bring the “patient component” into IT decisions, then future patient care will not only be quantified, but also more informed to respond to developments in population management and disease trends that previously were not evident until long after a problem reached a critical mass.
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