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Technological advances in healthcare ramp up demand for nurse informaticists within Chicago-area hospitals

Friday September 20, 2013
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Nursing informatics pioneer Ida M. Androwich, RN-BC, PhD, FAAN, FHIMSS, is elated by the growing demand for the specialty that uses data to connect people, information and technology to improve patient care.

The Chicago area job market is booming for nursing informatics, which blends nursing science, information science and computer science, said Androwich, a professor of nursing at the Loyola University Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing in Maywood, Ill., and recipient of the 2010 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Leadership Award.

“There are plenty of jobs in the Chicago area. All of our graduates have been able to find work they are pleased with and they have been able to progress quickly once they have their master’s degree,” said Androwich, who has held leadership roles with the American Medical Informatics Association among others.

Laura Jarski, assistant director of the information services department at The University of Chicago Medicine, agrees jobs are plentiful.

“The Chicago market is pretty hot,” she said. “If people are really interested in doing [informatics] implementation there are opportunities to do that work.”

Technological advances in healthcare have ramped up the demand for nurse informaticists who understand clinical practice and can translate that specification for IT.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology anticipates 50,000 new health information technology jobs will be created within the next few years.

Potential recruits must understand the nature of the business, have a healthcare background and possess good analytical and interpersonal skills.

“These people just are successful even if they don’t come to me with a master’s degree or informatics certification or Epic certification,” Jarski says.

Michelle Dardis, RN-BC, MSN, MBA, clinical informatics specialist at Vanguard Health Systems, which has several hospitals in the Chicago area, says while the Chicago area offers opportunities, it still took her six months to find the right position because roles, departments and terminology are not standardized.

“When I was looking last year, I remember there were a lot of openings and it would sound like you are fit for the position,” Dardis says. “But when you go in, they may not be looking for what you thought informatics was or you may not be a fit for what they were looking for.”

One challenge for hospitals is keeping these sought-after nurses after the initial implementations are done because they can work for more money as consultants.

“It can be hard to retain them, especially folks who are younger, don’t have responsibilities and are willing to travel,” Jarski said. As far as retention, “we are doing a compensation analysis of our IS department to try and make sure our salaries are competitive across the board.”

Nurses interested in leading the transformation in healthcare who can deal with constant changes in technology and clinical needs should consider nursing informatics, Dardis said. There is no typical day.

“One day I might be in front of nursing leadership,” Dardis said. “Another day I may be at the bedside helping a nurse and later that same day I can be meeting with my chief medical officer. And then I could have a technical call with IT and I might talk to an outside vendor about a product we are thinking about piloting. You have to be able to wear a lot of hats and have a consistent message.”

Nurse informaticists are key stakeholders in healthcare reform and clinical transformation.

“You have a lot of visibility and you get to participate in a lot of the changes going on in redesigning healthcare,” Dardis said. “And you also get to still work as a nurse. You are still assessing healthcare needs and applying solutions. So I still feel like I am practicing as a nurse, even though I am working on the business operations side.”

The outlook is great, said Androwich, who became interested in the field back in the early 1980s.

“We are so far from having all of the answers,” Androwich said. “There is constant discussion going on the AMIA Listserv on how best to document patient care. So the chapter has not been written. We are very much on a journey. We are not there, yet.”


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