Celebrating National Nurses Week: A look back at the journey from clinical care to health IT

Michele Behme, RN
By: Michele Behme, RN
Date: May 08, 2019

I started my career many years ago in a mid-sized community hospital in the tri-state area of IN, IL, and KY, in the acute behavioral health field. I was fortunate to work at a great hospital with strong nursing and physician leadership that taught me as a new graduate nurse the value of quality patient care and doing everything with the patient and family in mind. Many mentors helped to guide my approach to nursing care, and what type of nurse and eventual leader I would be. Many of these mentors I still think of and reach out to for advice today.

From clinical care to IT

When our hospital was selecting a new system, I gravitated to healthcare IT. I was approached to sit on the system selection committee to represent one-third of the hospital, which was behavioral health.

We were on a “home grown” order entry system and used paper for everything else. We had such unique needs at the time that are now common everyday practice such as locked inpatient units that could not have large computers due to patient acuity, outpatient units and programs, day treatment and partial hospitalization, DRG exempt unit, and some treatment procedures performed in the unit that are now performed in ambulatory surgery units (ASU).

My mentors and hospital leadership offered me a unique career once I became involved with IT. I was able to be a liaison to the IT department, nursing department, as well as represent our specialty. We did not have consultants, nor did we have vendors that had applications that interfaced with one another. Consequently, I learned all roles, all aspects of hardware, software, and implementation. We have come a long way with all the clinical applications, and educational offerings for nurses.

The payoff of clinical experience

Working from a remote home office, at a client site, or at the consulting company’s home office is different than the hospital setting. However, while not patient care, the hospital setting is at least familiar when you are on a hospital client site for advisory and/or implementation. That is where the clinical and leadership experience has a payoff. Nursing process is utilized in every aspect of what we do, whether it is taking care of patients or doing discovery on a project. Assessing existing technology, planning and implementing software, and evaluating its impact; the nursing process is still engrained in everything we do and in all aspects of our jobs.

Because I started with healthcare IT in an era when the top vendors were not in the picture, I have a lot of firsthand, hands-on experience of what not to do… and what should always be done in an implementation or advisory services assessment. It allows our team to learn and apply the lessons learned from a cumulative career.

Advice for new graduates

For graduates that are going into nursing, with a passion for health IT, get the bedside experience first. You need the experience to be able to apply it to any hospital and ambulatory implementation. If you have the good fortune of working with a nurse, respect his or her insight when it comes to patient safety, regulatory documentation, reimbursement guidelines, workflows, and other important details. Nurses make life and death decisions and are involved in many crisis situations. Help them to think through the best use of the technology but get a consensus on what needs to be designed and built.

One reason to partner with a nurse? They can multi-task and think strategically, working to produce better patient care outcomes and advocacy for patients and their families while making the best use of information technology to improve patient care.

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