With 17 years of nursing at Mayo Clinic under her belt, Kristy Zeitler, Nursing Informatics, wanted to further her education. She enjoyed computer documentation and noticed how data could be used to improve patient care. She’d been a super user for peer training when electronic documentation was first implemented.
Seven years later, with a master’s degree in nursing under her belt and board certification as an informatics nurse, Zeitler is one of about 15 nurse informaticists working on building Mayo Clinic’s new Epic electronic health record (EHR).
Go-between for nursing and Information Technology (IT)
“We meet with our nursing contacts every month to get feedback on the EHR,” says Zeitler. “I’m a go-between for Nursing and Information Technology. I’ve worked across all areas of the practice — inpatient, outpatient, ambulatory care — so I speak their language.”
Zeitler says it’s satisfying when a change is made that works well and nurses love. “We introduced auto-ordering for consults for nutrition and social work in the hospital dismissal summary that avoids double documentation and saves nurses’ time. It’s also rewarding when we make a change that improves patient safety.”
She cites a change in documentation that decreased the number of last-minute detections of patients who have implanted medical devices and are having imaging. “Sometimes patients don’t tell us they have a device, or they forget. It can be dangerous if they have imaging without precautions,” she says. “Now, once it’s in their medical record, the information is automatically added to imaging orders.”
Rapidly expanding career field
Zeitler says when she became interested in nursing informatics, there weren’t many programs available, and it was hard to find concrete examples of what nursing informatics entailed. “Now, there are many programs in this expanding field.”
Zeitler encourages nurses who are interested in clinical informatics to talk to those already in the field, explore education programs and become involved in informatics in their current jobs.
“Let your nurse manager know about your interest, and volunteer for teams and committees involved in documentation,” she says. “So much of what nurses do involves electronic documentation, and nurse informaticists are the experts in both the practice and the electronic systems we use. You play a vital role in keeping patients safe, improving care quality and helping nurses work more efficiently.”
Dawn Milliner, M.D., chief medical information officer, Mayo Clinic, says that clinicians from every specialty are needed to become proficient in informatics. “This is a necessary part of our work as health care evolves, and our work force must reflect it. Information systems can provide a safety net for all of us and help safeguard patients in more ways than individuals can.”