Canadian Nursing Informatics Association

Helen Edwards

22 Oct 2021 5:23 PM | Anonymous

How did you start your career in nursing?  What first drew you to informatics?

I graduated from a community college (CEGEP) nursing diploma program in Quebec in the 1970s and after moving to Ontario in early 1980s, worked at SickKids Hospital in Toronto for 40 years, retiring from there just 2 months ago. During my career I continued my academic preparation, completing undergraduate and graduate degrees. As nurses we collect, analyze, and communicate patient assessments, using their data to adjust care. We rarely acknowledge that this is “doing” informatics. My interest in informatics grew as I participated more in technology acquisitions and implementations.

What was your first role in informatics?

In the early 2000s I led a project to implement new physiological monitors and patient monitoring practices across the hospital. This first formal informatics role was followed by being the liaison between nursing and IT for the implementation of a new electronic health record. In November 2003 I was named the Director of Nursing Informatics and over the years expanded my portfolio to include more operational and strategic responsibilities.

What is your current role and what is the focus of the role?

After successfully implementing a new health information system (Epic) in 2018 I was promoted to Chief Nursing Informatics Officer. My responsibilities included operational oversight of a number of clinical application/informatics teams/staff; translating clinical business needs to determine the best path for new technologies or optimizing existing systems – often through revising or cementing processes and accountabilities; designing workflow in the context of technologies; addressing patient safety issues that could be addressed/ prevented through informatics. 

Although I retired at the end of May this year, I continue to be on the CNIA Board and support the University of Toronto Master of Health Informatics program, and I have started some consulting work.

What key messages do you have for nurses interested in working in the informatics field?

Recognize that you “do” informatics every single day, even if you don’t recognize that is what you are doing. Participate in activities or forums where you can influence the introduction or improvement of systems that you use. Nurses are in a unique position to provide insights into patient journeys and how the various disciplines interact when providing care to a patient. Your voices are important and can lead to improvements in patient care and clinical operations.  

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