by Sally Schlak, RN, MBA
How did you decide to become a nurse? I always had an interest in science and the study of health. When I was in high school, I became a nurse’s aide, and I found the work extremely interesting. From there on, I never questioned what I wanted to do. I was one of those few students who go to college and never change their major!
How did you transition into nursing informatics? For the first few years after graduation from nursing school, I worked as a staff nurse in various acute care settings, but I knew I wanted to pursue further education. Since the university I attended did not offer a MSN/MBA degree, I pursued the MBA to leverage nursing better within business and management communities.
After graduation, my first management role was as a Director of Nursing for a 770-bed hospital in Florida. I was pleased to contribute my expertise and be the voice at the administrative table for other nurses for 12 years. Then, pursuing a different direction with an eye on ways to improve the quality of care, I began to participate in quality improvement work and attended a nursing informatics meeting.
The meeting was fascinating, and I recognized immediately that informatics held great power for nursing and patient care. However, everyone spoke in acronyms, and it was difficult to understand the content of the meetings. I decided it was time again to pursue more knowledge, and the path for the future became more clear.
I took four graduate online nursing informatics classes at Indiana University. One of my projects was with TIGER, where a small group of students and I looked at the extent to which nursing graduate programs had included informatics content in their Doctorate of Nursing Programs (DNPs) programs. From there, I rapidly became involved in a series of TIGER projects.
During that time, I also pursued my own goals for more education and attended the ONC’s Community College Consortia Program for HIT in the Implementation Manager Role Program. Before becoming the Senior Director of the TIGER Initiative Foundation, I worked as a clinical analyst implementing EHRs. In this first role as the Senior Director for The TIGER Initiative Foundation, I am on the front-end of establishing a foundation, working with national collaborators and helping develop the structure and infrastructure of The TIGER Initiative Foundation.
What advice would you give nurses looking to get into the Informatics field?
1. Ask questions. Become involved in informatics related projects or committees.
2. Learn the terminology. There are plenty of online opportunities to learn about nursing informatics either through formal graduate classes or CEU classes. Education in this field is vital, and the learning curve is steep, but so rewarding! As soon as you are involved in informatics, you can see the value to the nursing profession.
4. Try to find an informatics mentor. I have been grateful for the mentors I have had over the years, they really make a difference in your career.
What do you see your role as within Nursing Informatics today?
- Educating nurses regarding informatics and technology and their important role in the success of informatics to change healthcare; and
- Continuing the work that I have done in the past related to implementation of nursing informatics in interdisciplinary environments and across the continuum of care.
Sally Schlack, RN, MBA, is Senior Director, The TIGER Initiative Foundation.