Nursing Career Growth through Health Information Technology
May 25, 2021
By Shannon Dale
This spring, the Kirkhof College of Nursing graduated its first cohort in the graduate Interprofessional Health Informatics Certificate program. There is a significant gap in the healthcare workforce for health professionals with informatics training and experience. Health information technology (HIT) has been implemented in inpatient settings across the country, but many systems are underutilized.
“HIT can be thoughtfully incorporated into a nurses’ workflow, but many see it as a hindrance,” explains Marie VanderKooi. “However, there is significant data that shows proper HIT education promotes patient safety, improved care, the quality of doctors’ work improves, and it improves overall population health.”
Four of this year’s certificate graduates were fully funded through the HRSA ANEW grant’s* telehealth component, which provided tuition through an academic-practice partnership with McLaren Health Care. The McLaren cohort was comprised of nurses already working in a clinical informatics role, who were looking to deepen their understanding of the system through evidence-based best practices, literature, and theory. The courses were developed to enable students to immediately apply what they were learning to their everyday work.
In addition to the healthcare expertise provided by KCON, computer information and public health administration classes add an important interdisciplinary focus to the certificate, enabling graduates to interact with HIT from multiple angles.
“There is often a disconnect between those who build the HIT system and those who actually use it. This certificate is a great opportunity to bring both sides together to create solutions for issues that arise when clinicians and the IT Department struggle to understand each other’s viewpoints,” explains Lisa Zajac, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, OCN, Informatics Certificate student, and Director of Clinical Informatics at the Karmanos Cancer Center.
The coursework provides opportunities to bridge these clinician and IT gaps through experience solving real-world problems. In the fall 2020 course on Telehealth, the McLaren students focused on how to rapidly transform care from in-person to remote, a change that challenged many health systems. The class met with McLaren medical group leaders to understand concerns around the implementation of more telehealth appointments. Their issues were implementation, provider adoption, patient acceptance of the technology, and the sustainability of the program. Through student research projects, the group was able to address McLaren’s concerns and outlined how to improve their health information system moving forward.
“Students looked at the challenge through all lenses. Their presentations came together to make the telehealth program better for all users involved,” explains VanderKooi.
After working in IT for 15 years, Interprofessional Health Informatics Certificate student, Kevin Kitchel went back to school for nursing seeking to find a more fulfilling career. While working as a nurse for McLaren, Kitchel had the opportunity to move into a temporary informatics role, blending his IT background with his passion for nursing. Thanks to the informatics certificate, it became a permanent role.
“As nursing and medicine become more computerized, we need more informatics support across all levels of healthcare from primary care, individual doctors’ offices, hospital systems, and in massive corporations,” explains Kitchel. “This hybrid program provided lots of interaction with our professors. It was built for a working professional nurse to go through.”
As a new frontier in nursing, there is a significant need for trained healthcare providers who understand the technology to help implement these systems in a way that gets out of the way of the caregiver, improves workflow, efficiency, and patient safety.
“The future of medicine is a more technologically integrated world,” shares Kitchel.
Cassandra Mosley, BSN, RN was a critical care nurse for ten years before she was recruited into informatics work, becoming the Clinical Transformation Specialist at McLaren Macomb. After gaining more than four years as an informatics nurse, Mosley was eager to earn her certificate to deepen her understanding of the systems she works with and to share her qualification for future career growth.
“This is a valuable certificate not just for nursing, but for all disciplines in healthcare to learn why systems are designed the way they are, how to enhance their use and the way we implement electronic medical records in general. It is incredibly valuable for people who even just have an interest in helping to enhance clinicians' experience across the board,” says Mosley.
New Interprofessional Health Informatics Certificate program cohorts launch each fall. Learn more about the program and apply here: https://www.gvsu.edu/s/1IW
*This program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $700,000 with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.