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Empowering nurses to lead healthcare’s digital revolution

The digital ecosystem needs nurses so it’s time they take a more prominent leadership role in the health IT revolution.
By admin
Mar 10, 2022, 8:30 AM

“If you want an opinion, ask a physician. If you want something done, ask a nurse,” said Andy Kinnear, MSc, FBCS, CHCIO, CHIME’s International Executive Program Adviser to open a CHIME Spring Forum session in Miami Beach this week.

Nurses are indispensable members of the healthcare community, yet their voices aren’t always heard during digital transformation efforts. That needs to change in order for organizations to successfully execute on their health IT visions.

“Digital transformation is a team sport. If clinical voices aren’t prominent and visible to their peers, then chances are your projects are going to fail,” Kinnear cautioned. “We’re going to get it wrong if we don’t have clinical input and leadership.”

In the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), nurses are rapidly becoming digital champions, bringing their front-line patient care experiences to bear on some of the most challenging health IT problems facing the complex national care network.

Helen Crowther, Clinical Nurse Lead – Digital Primary Care for NHS England, and Lisa Ward, CNIO for the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, are just two of the nursing professionals who are merging innovative digital thinking with their deep passion for patient care.

As recipients of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholarship, Crowther and Ward take an active role in developing clinical applications and educating their fellow nurses on the value of digital literacy in an increasingly data-driven care environment.

“COVID-19 has really been a lightbulb moment for nurses,” said Crowther.  “We’ve seen so much engagement and interest in the digital journey from our colleagues, especially through the Digital Nurse Network, which is an online community designed to support nurses during the pandemic and beyond.”

To earn her Florence Nightingale award, Crowther demonstrated the tangible value of nurse-led digital development.

“I created a dashboard to inform GPs about utilization within their practices, including appointments. It creates a baseline comparing local and national averages and identifying trends in clinical activity,” she explained.

“It helps with resource planning and has the potential to calculate workload so that if a practice has to close for any reason, we can reallocate patients to other practices.”

Within nine months of launch, close to two-thirds of NHS primary care practices have accessed the dashboard, she shared.

“Digital nurse leadership is driving us forward,” Crowther said. “Two hundred years ago, Florence Nightingale anticipated the importance of digital nurse leaders when she said ‘statistics is the most important science in the whole world…for it alone gives results of our experiences.’”

Ward also turned to informatics to support her community in the northeast of England. With a background in emergency care and patient safety, she created a sophisticated COVID-19 tracking system for the inpatient environment that was up and running by the middle of March 2020.

“We as nurses know what we need,” Ward said. “We know what will make a difference to us and our patients. We absolutely need to be on the front line of digital transformation in our organizations.”  

“While every single nurse needs to be digital, we need powerful Chief Nursing Information Officers and other senior leaders to guide and empower them,” she added. “Our job as digital nurse leaders is to inspire other nurses to intentionally choose digitally focused career paths and not just fall into them by accident. By training up a new generation of digitally savvy nurses, we will better position ourselves and our organizations for long-term success.”

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Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry.  Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system.

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