Susan Newbold, PhD, RN-BC is the owner and a faculty member of Nursing Informatics Boot Camp.
Tell me about yourself and what you do.
I am a PhD prepared informatics nurse. I’ve been in the field for many, many years, since the early 1980s. I conduct something I call the Nursing Informatics Boot Camp. It’s a two-day course. I travel around the country and the world giving that course, mostly for nurses, but for other clinicians as well. I’ve pretty much always been an educator. It’s my goal to teach every nurse about informatics.
Are the educational and experiential expectations changing to be able to call yourself an informatics nurse?
It is changing. When I started, I was self-taught. There are still people now that are self-taught. I’m still finding that.
People don’t have traditional coursework in informatics, so that’s why the boot camp that I do is valuable in one respect, because sometimes it pulls it together for the nurses that have been in the field without the education. It makes them realize that they are an informatics nurse. According to the American Nurses Association, you can only call yourself an Informatics Nurse Specialist if you have a degree and everybody else can be an informatics nurse.
Training options include your boot camp, 10×10, certificate programs, and graduate programs. If I’m a BSN working in informatics, what education might I pursue?
If one has a bachelor’s degree already, they could pursue a master’s degree specifically in nursing informatics. There are at least 43 programs available, many or most of them online. There are many, many options for education. Also, health informatics, because they’re not just restricted to nursing informatics. They could go into more of healthcare informatics, which is broader.
As an informatics nurse, what organizations and publications do you find most relevant?
I like CIN, which used to be called Computers, Informatics, and Nursing. It’s available in hard copy and online. I have had the privilege of being able to be part of many books related to informatics. In fact, two of them just came out at HIMSS. One of them is a HIMSS book called, “An Introduction to Nursing Informatics: Evolution & Innovation.” That’s new, hot off the press. That’s for people that may be nurses and wonder what informatics is all about, so it really is a good intro. I think people in the field can benefit from it as well.
I was also privileged to be a part of the newest edition of Saba and McCormick’s “Essentials of Nursing Informatics, 6th Edition.” I always think when a book is in a later edition, it always gets better, and this one is better. It’s one of the newest and latest books out there. I was privileged to edit the international chapters, so it’s not just a US perspective, it’s international as well.
And of course, HIMSS. Everybody has to be a member of HIMSS. Some people that are in academic medical centers may go toward AMIA, which used to be the American Medical Informatics Association.
Speaking of the HIMSS conference, how were informatics nurses represented there compared to previous conferences?
We are lucky in that there’s a one-day symposium on nursing informatics. If you want to be drawn toward nursing informatics topics, then be with a network and have education surrounding nursing informatics, we do have that one-day symposium. That’s excellent. Otherwise, the topics are very broad, and I know — well, that’s probably the wrong word — not very nursing focused. But that’s OK. We can pick and choose and find topics that are of relevance to us as nurses and clinicians.
Do you think there’s any movement to make the HIMSS conference more relevant to nurses?
I can speak from a chapter level. When I first moved to Tennessee, I said, hey, you guys are all consultants talking to vendors. That seemed to be what Tennessee HIMSS was. They said, well, Dr. Newbold, you can change that, and we will make you vice-president of professional development for Tennessee HIMSS. Because of that, I had the opportunity to bring in more clinical aspects of our programming.
I think we have that opportunity within HIMSS. I really think that HIMSS is us. HIMSS is me. I have that opportunity to make suggestions and have things more nursing focused.
But of course, we just don’t look at nurses. We focus on the patient, so all things clinical are of interest to us. I recommend that every nurse who’s interested in informatics joins HIMSS because there is plenty for nurses. The online drills, the webinars. I’m doing a webinar during Nurses Week on the pioneers in nursing informatics. We have plenty of opportunities.
Do you see vendors paying more attention to what happens to their products when they’re put out in the field for nurses to use or getting input on product design from nurses?
I think vendors are getting better. I did work for a couple vendors along the way. The smarter vendors now have things like usability labs and have nurses that are employed by them. Vendors like Cerner have hired me to see that they can get their nurses are certified in nursing informatics. That’s a huge gold star for that vendor. They see the importance of nurses and have hired hundreds of nurses. That’s a big thing.
We still have a long way to go as far as usability is concerned, but some of the vendors are getting it and starting to hire nurses and utilize nurses and focus groups, usability labs. We’re getting better. It is a little bit frustrating that it’s taken so long. You know, I’ve been in the business for over 30 years. When are we going to get products that accurately reflect our workflow?
But then part of the problem is nurses. We don’t all do things the same way, even two units in a hospital. “Oh, we do things differently because we’re special.”
It sometimes seems that the attributes that make a good nurse doesn’t necessarily make a good technologist. Do you see that changing with the educational requirements?
I think it is changing. Most nursing programs are now required to include nursing informatics. That’s a good thing. We’re using more technology in our everyday life. Even the smartphone is technology that we didn’t have a few years ago. We’re using it, we’re integrating it into our everyday life, it’s there in our organizations. There are nurses now who have always documented using electronic means.
Do you see more opportunities for nurses to take leadership roles within health systems and informatics?
Oh, definitely. The only thing that’s holding us back is ourselves. We can be chief nursing informatics or information officers. We can be CIOs.
When you say nurses are holding themselves back, what should they do differently if they aspire to those leadership roles?
If we want to be a CIO, we can figure out what the path is to get there. I don’t really see that there’s a glass ceiling that doesn’t allow us to get there. Most of the people in healthcare IT these days are men, definitely, but that doesn’t mean we’re held back from getting those CIO top-level jobs.
What would be the ideal background for a nurse to get into that CIO-type position?
I always think it’s easier to take a nurse and teach them the technical aspects than to take a technical person and teach them the healthcare aspects. So the first thing is being a nurse. Then there are plenty of degree programs so you can get more of that technical aspect. We do, as nurses, need to know more about technology than we do. I think we need to be a little bit more technical ourselves and not leave that up to somebody else on the team.
Are nurses actively involved in patient engagement enough to make a difference?
I think we’re trying to figure it out. It’s funny. When I do my boot camps, I say, “OK, how many people have patient portals?” and they may have it, but they don’t use it. We should be the role models — the nurses. Every nurse should be engaged personally in a patient portal so then we can encourage patients to be part of the patient portal.
Do you have any concluding thoughts?
Besides education, one of my issues with nursing informatics is that it may be hard for us to define who we are and tell others who we are because we have so many titles. As in hundreds of titles, not just a dozen or so. We have hundreds of titles, so it’s hard to say who we are as informatics nurses. I think that’s one thing we have to work on — to try to get it down to manageable numbers so we can convey to others outside of nursing who we are and what we do.