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With advances in technology, Philadelphia Tri-State hospitals look to hire RNs for fast-growing nurse specialty

Saturday September 21, 2013
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Colleen Reilly Mallozzi, RN, BSN, BSIS, enjoys a job that uses her skill set to perfection. As manager of nursing informatics at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, she combines her IT skills with nursing to improve patient care.

After earning a degree in information systems and working at Microsoft, Mallozzi decided to pursue a career in healthcare. She earned an accelerated BSN at Drexel University so she could help lead the digital revolution in healthcare information.

“I am doing exactly what I envisioned,” Mallozzi said. “I get to work closely with the nursing staff and tailor our systems to meet their needs. I get a firsthand, comprehensive view of how technology and electronic systems affect patient care, both positively and negatively. I then get to partner with healthcare providers and corporate IS [information systems] to come up with solutions that will streamline practice to positively affect patient outcomes.”

Acting as a bridge between IS, software providers and clinicians to make sure patients are best served by technology is among the requirements for the in-demand specialty that is growing in value and impact, according to the 2011 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology estimates 50,000 new health information technology jobs, including nurse informatics jobs, will be created by 2015.

The Philadelphia area is a hot market for nurse informaticists, said Scott D. Alcott, RN, MSN, director of clinical informatics at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

“Many facilities, especially long-term care and physician practices, have a long way to go in order to meet the meaningful use 1 and meaningful use 2 criteria to receive CMS incentives and avoid reimbursement penalties,” Alcott said.

“We are just starting to see organizations realize that they need informatics professionals and not just IS professionals.”

Many of the nurse informaticists hired “are usually internal people who have gone to school to get their masters’ degree in nursing informatics and then apply when a spot opens up,” said Terese M. Kornet, RN, MSN, director of clinical nursing systems at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “At least that’s what I have seen at Penn Medicine.”

One challenge for hospitals is retaining these nurses, who can earn more money as consultants. Kornet is not aware of any area hospitals offering incentives for these positions. While the job market is strong, the lack of standardized job titles and responsibilities makes comparing these jobs challenging, said Karla Beden, RN, MSN, clinical informatics coordinator at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mill, N.J.

“You can find out the job market for an ER nurse pretty easily, but it’s not the same type of comparison in the informatics world,” she said. “If you tell me you are a clinical 3 nurse, that tells me you are well into your field. If I tell you my title, you wouldn’t have a clue how long I’ve been in my field.”

Beden, a former ER nurse, said the best aspect of her job for the past 12 years is “having my hands in everybody’s pot.”

As the sole person in her department, she avoids integration issues.

“I don’t send my request to somebody else to build,” she said. “I build it. I train and implement it. I make it integrated. That’s part of why I love my job, because I can make it so user-friendly up front.”

For Mallozzi, one challenge of the job is the “pushback from all directions when updating our Electronic Medical Record and subsequent nursing systems.” So when nurses express appreciation, it’s a great feeling, she said.

“The moment when I see something that I’ve created in the system positively effect a nurse’s daily routine, and they quickly say, ‘wow, that’s awesome, it’s going to save me so much time,’ I feel the rewards of this job,” she said.

The outlook for the specialty for the next 10 to 15 years is bright, Alcott said. Leaders of American Nurses Association, American Nursing Informatics Association, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and other organizations are helping administrators recognize the unique role nurse informaticists play.

“I have also seen a rise in the number of organizations creating a CNIO role and putting that position in the C-suite with a reporting structure to either the CNO, COO, or CEO,” Scott said.


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