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The nursing workforce can embrace changes and lead

Sam Neville
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When building resilience for nursing in the sphere of digital informatics nursing, employing one nurse to lead in an organisation is not enough.

With the commitment to switch to paperless patient records by 2020 highlighted in the Five Year Forward View, the promotion of online services and patient empowerment using wearable technology and apps, the question remains: who is going to lead and signpost these initiatives?

There are currently around 40,000 nurse vacancies across England and we need to look at different models of caring and helping people to remain well using a mixture of technology and staffing initiatives that help the public self-care.

People have known little about the role of the nurse in informatics until recently, unless they had worked in America, where the roles are embedded as part of the overall structure. Having a nurse in a full or part-time informatics role provides more consistency to the digital service staff. They can often be the conduit role between informatics specialist and the largest workforce in the NHS.

Nurses tend to fall into the role of chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO) in trusts following a secondment to project work involving digital services.

Organisations have realised that having a clinician available to help with decision-making, planning, and staff and patient engagement can make systems run smoothly in the clinical environment.

“Technology has been under-used to assist in streamlining processes for nurses”

Technology has been under-used to assist in streamlining processes for nurses. Now is the time to think about how the nursing workforce can step-up to embrace these changes and lead.

All nursing staff must understand the available technology. How many staff members will be using an Android phone or iPhone on their break but fear using a tablet for work? This perception that they are different needs to change, which will only happen with good leadership and empowerment.

This is where an informatics nurse comes into their own — by remaining credible within practice and understanding how processes work and more importantly how they could change.

We have all seen the rise of clinical nurse specialist teams, infection control teams and others. A specialist team of clinical staff is needed to inform and be the bridge between clinical and informatics specialist to make things happen safely and ensure engagement with staff.

One person alone can only start a ripple of interest. A team of like-minded people at multiple levels could create, inform and lead to improve patient outcomes and public involvement in health.

This blog was written by Sam Neville, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust, looking at clinical systems across three trusts due to merge.

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