of the Week
Angela's career-changing experience with
technology is an inspirational one. As a graduate from North Park
University School of Nursing and Harry S. Truman College School
of Nursing, Angela began a long career in health care, gaining expertise
in various areas of the nursing profession such as oncology, rehabilitation,
IV and orthopedic nursing.
She first came across technology when she
was a home health case manager, visiting and treating patients right
in their homes. The home health agency that she worked for set up
a new computerized system, which prompted Angela to bring along
a computer laptop on all her calls. With this laptop, she could
access patient and prescription information, read up on drug and
medical procedures, transcribe doctor's notes, diagnoses and plans
of treatment during a patient visit or on the road. This new process
peaked Angela's interest in technology. She realized that nursing
practices and medical care could greatly benefit from its advances,
cutting down on time and the endless paperwork that is strongly
attached to the health care profession.
Angela then learned about an emerging field
in the health care industry called Health Care Informatics that
would give her a chance to combine her interests in nursing and
computers, and provide her with new challenges that she was eager
to tackle. She began to take database and web design classes and
joined the Midwest Alliance for Nursing Informatics (MANI), where
she says she was able to find mentorship not from one, but all of
its members. Today, years later, she is now the group's President
In 2000, Angela became a Board-certified
Nurse Informaticist. Later, she became the Clinical Applications
Specialist for Provena Health Information Systems where she managed
technical and clinical support of electronic medical record applications
modules. Angela is currently Project Manager of Clinical Information
Systems for LaRabida Children's Hospital and Research Center. She
is responsible for planning, implementing and maintaining all of
their clinical applications.
After years in the nursing field, Angela
has maintained an interest in computers and technology. She participates
and manages many web sites and online boards devoted to the subject
of Nursing Informatics. She is involved in various chapters of women-focused
technology groups such as DigitalEve and WebGrrls where she is a
Angela is a prime example of the huge impact
technology can make to one's career. She continues to encourage
and teach other nurses and clinicians about the benefits of information
systems in patient care and the medical profession in general. Here
Angela shares with us her technology experiences and talks more
about the career of Health Informatics.
Tell us more about yourself and your
background with technology.
I'd say my first love is nursing science
then "technology" and my career allows me to combine the two nicely.
I'm what I refer to as "a knowledge junkie" I love to learn. I read
for pure pleasure and consider Internet and database searching fun.
As a little kid I loved going to school. I chose nursing as a career
because (ever since high school) I'd been fascinated with the workings
of the human mind and body. I can explain to you what happens physiologically
when a baby is born but if you've ever seen a live birth you know
its more than the science and the technology - its miraculous! That's
the same way I feel about technology.
I'm the perpetual student and a few of
my favorite subjects are new thought, nursing informatics, psychology,
anatomy, physiology and biology - cried through chemistry and stats
though. I think the chemistry teachers passed me so they wouldn't
have to hear me whine anymore.
I'm also really anal and will plan the
heck out of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
After graduating from nursing school one
of my specialties was Intravenous Therapy (IVT). IVT is also known
as "High Tech Nursing". Who would have thought that 18 years later
I'd really be practicing in the "high tech" industry.
Prior to 1996 the closest I had ever come
to a computer was using the ATM. I was working in home health nursing
when our agency began the implementation of an electronic documentation
system and I became a super-user. The best way I can describe it
is - it was soooo much fun and like magic! Manipulating and working
with the system to get it to do what you needed it to do, discovering
new functionality and figuring out how it worked was awesome. Sort
of like magic or sci-fi. I'm also a Trekie.
I liked using the system and it was fun,
not "work." When I asked my (then) nursing manager if I could have
a full-time job working with the system she said something to the
effect of, "You're a good nurse just keep doing what you're doing."
This basically meant: "No". I've never liked being told I can't
do something so I decided to make a move. I now practice (full-time)
in the specialty of Nursing Informatics/Healthcare IS and continue
my clinical nursing practice part-time.
When did you first discover your love or obsession
with technology and new media? Was it a career-changing experience
That first experience in home health nursing
got me started seeing how technology could be utilized to improve
patient care and nursing practice. The world of nursing and healthcare
is overburdened with manual paper processes and antiquated methods
of communication between clinicians/healthcare providers.
It was my first web design class and the
creating of my first webpages that got me hooked on new media.
Were you encouraged as a child to learn
more about and participate in science, math and more technical-oriented
You know, my parents taught their African-American
children that we could do anything or be anything as long as we
applied ourselves. In my mother's house you could pretty much get
away with anything as long as you did not mess up in school. My
mother taught me that an education was something no one could take
away from you. We were encouraged to participate in science fairs
and such but no more than any other area of study. As far as math
- I hate math. Always have. I'm also a really bad speller. That's
why I love word processing software and spellcheck!
Did you have a mentor in the field
or anyone who inspired you to use technology in your work?
Can I really
name names? I have
been extremely blessed to have several mentors that are pioneers
in the nursing informatics field, along with clinical nursing mentors
who have always encouraged and inspired me by their examples.
How much of an impact, do you think, mentoring
has on women starting out in technology?
Oh, a GREAT deal. When I was trying to make
the transition from clinical nursing-to-nursing informatics and
information systems I had a lot of heart and desire but no real
experience. All I knew in my heart was: "I want to do this." I had
several interviews with informatics nurses who had been practicing
in this field (at that time) for more than 10 years. They should
not have even given me the time of day, but they took the time to
tell me what my skill set lacked and how to get the necessary knowledge.
They didn't have to do that but they did. That is mentoring, to
nurture someone else's dreams and help that person help themselves.
What do you think we need to do to get more
women interested in technology?
Related to the next generation we need to: expose
children to science and technology early; tell them that they can
do ANYTHING they set their sights on; make learning fun; stop perpetuating
the myth that girls are less capable than boys, when it comes to
technology and science!
What has been your experience with integrating
your technology skills to the medical or health care industry? What
obstacles, if any, did you encounter in that experience?
There are a few people that think by utilizing
technology in healthcare you somehow diminish its caring nature,
but that's not true. Technology is like any other tool. It should
be utilized ethically and appropriately to improve patient care
and healthcare practice. It will never replace the art of nursing,
human kindness or wisdom. Someone once said, "No one likes change
but a wet baby." That's also true when applied to changing the manual
work processes of healthcare practitioners by implementing information
systems technologies. You have not seen resistance until you have
watched a grown man (with M.D. behind his name) try to destroy a
laptop, mobile metal cart and all!
In your opinion, in what other ways do you
think technology would better serve society?
We currently have technologies that can assist
in decreasing medical errors, improve patient safety, nursing care
and healthcare practice. Unfortunately these technological tools
are not being utilized as comprehensively or as effectively as they
What advice can you give to girls or women
who are just beginning to learn about technology and new media?
Don't give up. If this is really what "charges"
you, if this is really what you want to do, don't give up. Get training,
take classes, and learn as much as you can from anyone who is willing
to teach you.
What do you do when you aren't working and
thinking about the next project?
I'm dreaming about the next adventure in my life!
Any current or future projects ahead?
Several writing projects related to nursing
and healthcare informatics; completing my graduate degree; assisting
my organization with the implementation of the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) the federal mandate to
insure the confidentiality and security of patient health information.
Any favorite websites, tech tools or cool
devices to recommend?
The new wireless tablets and that PDA with the biometric fingerprint
security are all WAY COOL!
Do you consider yourself a "Geek"?
First and forever I will always be a "nurse",
then ……..Of course I'm a GEEK and proud of it!