by Cheryl D. Parker, RN-BC, MSN, PhD, FHIMSS
I came from a blue-collar community in the early ’70s where many women ended up in lower paying jobs expecting that their husbands would take care of them. Being a rather independent person, I wanted to wanted to find a career that would allow me to always put a roof over my head and food in my mouth without having to depend on anyone to provide for me. I chose nursing since I am lousy at math and I figured that there would always be sick people.
Back in the 1970s, nursing schools were begging for students, so off I went for my associate’s degree. For about the first 18 years of my career, I was primarily an emergency nurse but also did some medical-surgical, critical care, occupational, nursing home and home health nursing. But ED nursing was my love at that time…and I still miss it occasionally.
In my late ’30s, I started looking ahead and realized that I probably wouldn’t want ED nursing as my only option as I got older. I decided to finish my MSN with focus on academic education. Unfortunately, by the time I graduated, I learned I didn’t want to be a full-time academic educator…I like to make money too much and I was too radical in my thinking to fit comfortably into academic world. So all I could think was “now what?”
Then, while I was working a night shift in ED, the charge nurse asked me to do a literature search and bring back articles from the hospital library. While there, I ran across a magazine I had never seen before, “Computers in Nursing.”
A light bulb went off, since I was known as the computer nurse in my ED. There was an ad in the back of the magazine for a post-master’s certificate in nursing informatics at the University of Maryland–BINGO. Two months later, I left my husband in Seattle and moved off to Baltimore for the next 10 months (no online programs back then), and my NI career began.
My advice to nurses looking to get into the informatics field would be two-fold:
- Find an employer who will hire you into an entry-level informatics; and
- Plan on getting at least a master’s degree.
Consider that initial implementations will be done in 5-10 years from now, and the focus will be on data analysis for improved outcomes and fiscal management. You might want to read the Q&A Section of the HIMSS’s eNurse Mentor page for other ideas.
My current role is to bring the power of nursing informatics to my role as Chief Nursing Informatics Officer at Rubbermaid Medical, educating the next generation of master’s prepared nurses as contributing faculty at Walden University, as well as sharing my knowledge and experience through speaking, publishing and mentoring.
As I look over the past 35 years, I could not have picked a better career…although if anyone back in 1977 could have told me where nursing would take me, I would have suggested they needed their medications adjusted! In retrospect, the only thing I might done differently would have been to get my advanced degrees earlier…I was almost 50 when I finished my doctorate. But all-in-all, I’ve been one very lucky nurse.
Cheryl D. Parker, RN-BC, MSN, PhD, FHIMSS is Chief Nursing Informatics Officer at Rubbermaid Medical Solutions.