From 3M Health Information Systems
Juxtaposed: My journey to becoming an informaticist
Juxtaposed is not a painful yoga position – it’s merely a description of how I have felt a myriad of times in life. Wearing many hats seems to have become an expectation rather than the exception. Many would think of this metaphor as stacking one hat on top of the other. I felt like they were next to each other – each ear a handle. Like my head had become more of a coat rack then a rounded knob on my shoulders. They all seemed easier to wear when one is vibrantly hopeful and energetically young, until faced with the reality that some hats will cause a discordance at times.
For the most part we can manage a harmonious balance, or at least try to. For me, the roles of mother, wife, nurse and student all blended into a symphony of life. Being all of the above was very beneficial for my family, in particular when I was able to be both mother and nurse to a special needs child. Until it wasn’t.
Working at his pediatrician’s office and checking him in for his nine-month physical, I noted his head circumference increased 20 percent in three months. I immediately understood the repercussions, and the many interventions that awaited – spina bifida, hydrocephalus, ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. While this is a dramatic illustration of how my juxtaposed functions both benefited and handicapped me, it did better prepare me for opportunities in my future.
Breaking printers seemed to be my calling, or that’s how my coworkers must have felt. Always asking for this or that to be fixed. Maybe that is the reason I was asked to be a super user, then a trainer for the new electronic health record (EHR). I felt a new hat landing on my head. Informaticist was the next logical step.
I adored acting as a bridge between the technical and clinical side, looking at the processes and assisting in the end user interfaces to make them usable. Everything was so new and fresh. New order set, why yes! For EVERY provider. Not thinking of the maintenance we would have to perform later. Customized templates for ALL the facilities – sure, why not! As a nurse, I knew each surgeon had a preferred tool and method, but as an informaticist I also understood that there were functionality limitations, and best practices to stick to. With more than a decade in the field, I would like to think I am starting to ask the right questions.
Understanding the why of a request helps exponentially. Sometimes, just because we can build it doesn’t mean we should. What is the end goal? Most of the time there are multiple ways to get there – and usually not by the exact path that is requested. Translating the clinical evidence onto a client interface; making a reliable piece of technology that is updated and maintained with best practices; offering the best of both clinical knowledge and technical experience; taking down the silos – this is where I hope to remain and succeed.
From being at the bedside of the patient, to working at the elbow of the providers, and now remotely building natural language understanding (NLU) content – what a journey it has been! Walking the middle of this two-lane road and weaving two juxtaposed lanes into one, I look forward to where it will take the industry.
Kellie Britton is a Clinical Analyst with 3M Health Information Systems.