Nerdy Nurse blogger found a dream career in clinical informatics. She tells Dallas Bastian about selling her peers on the value of technology.
A nerd at heart, Brittney Wilson is combining her love of technology and healthcare in her career as a clinical informatics nurse and spreading her knowledge through her blog, TheNerdyNurse.com.
Wilson has loved technology since she was a child; she spent her schooling years selling computers. Whilst looking for a way to blend this passion with her career, she discovered nursing informatics – a mix of tech savvy and practical experience.
“When I read the job description for an informatics nurse, it was like the stars aligned, the clouds parted, the sun shone down and the angels began to sing,” Wilson says. “It sounded like someone had created a job just for me.”
Wilson hopes that by spreading word of technology’s benefits, she can show her fellow nurses the value it has in patient care, as well as their personal lives.
“I love technology and get such joy out of all the amazing things it does in my life,” she says. “If I can help nurses find just a fraction of the joy in technology that I do, then I would consider my goal met.”
She says being a technologically savvy nurse has opened up career opportunities for her, as well as the chance to travel and speak about her interests.
“I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my technological savvy and social media expertise with the next generation to help them better understand the rules nurses should follow to protect themselves, their patients, and the nursing profession online,” she says.
Wilson spoke with Nursing Review about her blog, how nurses can become more comfortable with technology and the benefits it can have for their career.
NR: What drove your passion to start a blog in this area?
BW: I remember when I first heard the word ‘blog’. It sounded so ridiculous to me. ‘Who are these people and why do they think anyone gives a hoot about what they have to say?’ I would think. But my opinion on blogging changed when I first became a nurse.
It was an eventful year for me, 2008–09. I graduated from nursing school, passed the NCLEX, started my first nursing job, moved into my first home, broke my leg, got married, unexpectedly suffered the loss of my mother and had a baby. Unfortunately, the stress was made much worse as I was being broken in at work; I learned all too clearly that nurses eat their young.
I felt so isolated from the other nurses and in addition to often being humiliated and lonely on the job, I also questioned whether nursing was the right career for me. I desperately wanted a community of nurses to offer me the support I was not getting, and so I turned to social media. First it was Twitter and then I started a blog that merged my love for technology and nursing. It was an effort to vent my frustrations, grow as a nurse and gain insight from other nurses. I often found myself describing scenarios that had occurred to me and asking for feedback. I also shared emotional experiences, witty commentary and informative technology articles. What started as a mechanism to cope with being bullied as a new nurse blossomed into something beautiful.
Why is adapting to technology so important for nurses?
I routinely encounter nurses who are beyond frustrated by technology. I often find myself talking them down from the proverbial technology cliff as they question why “these computers have to get in the way of patient care”.
As an advocate for technology, I usually have to fight the urge to defend it because usually that just doesn’t do anything to make the situation better. To me there are few things more exciting than technology. There are so many ways it improves our lives and the lives of the patients we serve. But frankly, I know that I won’t win all nurses over with the tech cheerleader routine, so we’ll just get to the point: technology isn’t going anywhere.
Technology helps us to work smarter instead of harder. It’s also required to keep track of data that governmental agencies require to provide payment for patient care. And let’s just be honest here, if the hospital doesn’t get paid the nurse doesn’t get paid. So we have to use it.
But I think just because [you’re not using technology by choice] doesn’t mean you can’t learn to love it, or at least respect it. You can change your mindset and try to see the positives and understand that you control it, it doesn’t control you. Confidence is the key. Nurses are savvy tech users because they [interact with] computers every day, so why not own your skills instead of running away from them?
How will it benefit a nurse’s practice?
There are so many ways, but let’s just focus on the bedside and education.
Technology is used at the bedside to enhance nursing practice every day. That fancy vital signs machine and that super shiny smart pump are both computers. These are technologies that most nurses are thankful to have and see the value in. The benefit to nursing practice from gadgets like these is in efficiency, speed and safety.
Technology also makes education more accessible. There are so many smartphone apps that give instant access to disease- and diagnosis- specific information, lab values, medication data and so much more. There are even apps that help you prepare for ACLS, PALS and other life-saving certifications.
Nurses can also use technology to obtain a higher degree. Many nursing courses offer online programs for BSN and MSN degrees. These offer a flexibility that many other options would not and provide a way for many nurses to expand their mind and career potential. Research proves that nurses with higher levels of education reduce mortality. If this doesn’t show the value of education and technology, I don’t know what could.
In what ways can technology enhance nurses’ careers?
One way that is near and dear to my heart is social media and blogging. Some nurses use technology to become successful entrepreneurs or as a résumé booster for their next career opportunity. For example, being skilled with database management and vendor relations is valuable for nurses who are interested in the specialty of informatics.
Clinical informatics nursing combines technological savvy and clinical care experience. Nurses who work in these roles often live in both the clinical and technical worlds, offering techy solutions to clinical issues. They act as the translator between nursing and IT. They are highly valued for their dynamic skills.
Not every nurse is interested in all things nerdy but most do have a Facebook. This is a form of social media that both the young and old are fairly comfortable with. I encourage branching out into other forms of social media. This is because nurses can use social media to expand their professional network and gain contacts in specialties they might otherwise not have. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with recruiters that can help you find new opportunities you might not have access to through traditional means.
What are your tips for helping nurses become more comfortable with technology?
In my work, I often encounter nurses who become anxious when dealing with computers and other forms of technology. I always find this to be funny because most of them use computers for eight to 12 hours a day, yet for some reason they say things like, “I’m not good with computers.” I use these opportunities to express the fact that I know they spend their entire shift working with a computer and that if they have to call IT once in a blue moon it doesn’t mean they don’t know computers. All it means is that I have some job security!
Overall, nurses don’t give themselves credit for how much they do know when it comes to technology, so if I could tell every nurse who questions their technological savvy one thing, it would be this: Have confidence!
Being skilled with computers and technology is as much about attitude and patience as it is anything else. Having a positive attitude and outlook will get you miles further than shutting down and playing the “I don’t know computers” card.
Here’s a piece of computer advice that will save you lots of time and heartache: When in doubt, reboot. I cannot even begin to stress the amount of time and effort this single IT tip will save you.
Technology is a powerful and useful tool that nurses often feel to be a burden in our practice but it doesn’t have to be like this. My advice for making it more palatable is to simply find some way to use it that you find fun or entertaining and build your appreciation from there. A great way to start is by getting a tablet, such as an iPad or Kindle Fire.
I wrote The Nerdy Nurse’s Guide to Technology to help nurses ease into it without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed – a great way to feel more confident. In it are many tips to get your feet wet in the nerd pool and gain a greater appreciation, and perhaps even a love, for technology.Do you have an idea for a story?
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