It may seem unusual for a nurse to be a chief clinical information officer, but Joanne Dickson demonstrates how a background in nursing can elevate any career, and deepen any area of study
Joanne Dickson, currently a chief clinical information officer (CCIO) and a clinical informatics partner with Nuffield Health, openly acknowledges the peculiarity of her current job in relation to her nursing background. “It’s unusual for CCIOs to be nurses,” she explains. “I’m proud of that job title and of being a nurse with that title.”
From where Ms Dickson now stands, she reflects on how her experience as a nurse benefits her current role as an IT specialist. “I’m using my nursing skills pretty much every day to be honest. They allow me to fill a strategic role in my organisation.”
“I met nurses during that time that inspired me”
Ms Dickson’s original move into the nursing profession was motivated by extremely personal circumstances. “I never intended to be a nurse, but my mum got sick when I was 18. She had cancer,” Ms Dickson explains. “I met nurses during that time that inspired me.”
In fact, before her mother’s illness, she was planning on pursing journalism, but has never looked back after deciding to move into nursing. “It was completely unplanned but I have never regretted it for a moment,” she says.
After completing her nurse training, Ms Dickson was drawn to the specialty of neuroscience and took her first role at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust.
“It was tough work, but I really enjoyed that role”
It was through this specialty that she opened the next chapter of her career.
“I became the lead nurse in a pain management ward,” she says. “It was tough work, but I really enjoyed that role.” After 10 years in pain management, Ms Dickson “decided it was time for a change” and moved into medicines management as a clinical educator, and it was through this role that she – accidentally – found IT.
“I had to use an electronic discharge summary,” she explains. ”And, honestly, they couldn’t find anyone else that could give the clinical view on the electronic discharge subject. I always had an interest in technology but never thought of myself as someone that was especially good with IT.”
“Moving full time into IT felt like a very brave move”
Later, Ms Dickson was offered a full time role as an IT nurse but she hesitated in accepting, worrying that she might lose touch with her clinical background. She found the role actually did the opposite.
“Moving full time into IT felt like a very brave move because it felt like I was leaving clinical practice, but it hasn’t been that way,” she says. “IT professionals look at really crucial things, how the IT works, the effectiveness there. But I can look at the impact of these changes on the health professionals,” she says.
“Understanding that patient journey, allows me to bring a clinical focus. I can bring the reality to the technology we’re working with.”
“I think my greatest achievement is an ongoing feeling that I’m still valued for being the nurse that I’m very proud to be”
In 2015, Ms Dickson was nominated as one of the Top 50 individuals on the Nursing Times Leader’s List, and on the same day she was offered a position with Nuffield Health. Ms Dickson lists her Nursing Times recognition as one of her greatest achievements – partly because of its connection to nursing itself. “My career goal has always been to be valued for what I do,” she notes. “I think my greatest achievement is an ongoing feeling that I’m still valued for being the nurse that I’m very proud to be.”
After 22 years in the NHS, Ms Dickson moved into the independent sector this January. “Deciding to move was a big decision that I weighed heavily,” she says. “But it was a highlight of my career even though it was a hard decision to make.”
And, indeed, after her many years of varied experience in both IT and clinical nursing, Ms Dickson has gained a dual-citizenship, “I still see myself very much as the bridge between clinical and technology. The translator.”