Know the System before Diving into Nursing Informatics
Episode

Robert Abda, Clinical Informaticist at Universal Health Services

Know the System before Diving into Nursing Informatics

Are you thinking of becoming a nurse informaticist? This conversation is for you! 

 

In this episode of the Future of Global Informatics, TJ Southern is joined by Robert Abda, a registered nurse clinical informaticist at Universal Health Services. He talks about his role as a clinical informaticist at a corporate level doing project management and custom development, as well as other work possibilities and opportunities in nursing informatics. Robert also discusses exciting changes happening around data transparency, cybersecurity, and education that might bring awareness to the role of nurse informaticists. Furthermore, he provides advice and encouragement for people considering a career in nursing informatics.

 

Tune in to listen to Robert Adba speak about nursing informatics and what excites him in this field!

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Know the System before Diving into Nursing Informatics

About Robert Abda:

Robert is a registered nurse clinical informaticist at Universal Health Services, inc. (UHS) who works with hospital care teams, informatics, and other information technology team members to design, build, and implement healthcare technology solutions to optimize the care and treatment of patients. He is also currently completing his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in Health Systems Executive Leadership and is an adjunct faculty instructor for Wilkes University. Prior to joining the UHS team, he was a perioperative registered nurse for a Community Health Systems (CHS) hospital in Northeastern, PA, working in all phases of surgery. Robert then grew into a facility informaticist role at that hospital shortly after completing his master’s degree. At the CHS hospital, he helped lead the Cerner EMR adoption project, assisted with onboarding new hires and students, and rolled out mobile nurse workstations. Robert currently lives in King of Prussia, PA. When he is not busy with school coursework, he can be found outside cycling the many trails the Philadelphia area offers.

 

Future of Global Informatics_Episode 6_RAbda: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Future of Global Informatics_Episode 6_RAbda: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

TJ Southern:
Hey, y’all! Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket Network – The Future of Global Informatics Podcast, where we discuss global informatics through conversations with industry leaders and innovators so that you can understand what it is, what it does, and how it shapes the healthcare of our future. I am your host, TJ Southern.

TJ Southern:
All right. Hey, y’all, hey, y’all. Good day, good day, good day. Welcome to another episode of The Future of Global Informatics. This is your girl, T.J. Southern, and today we have another exciting guest. We have with us today, Robert Abda. Yes, y’all heard that last night, Robert Abda. Hi! How you doing today, Robert?

Robert Abda:
Doing well. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me today. I really appreciate it.

TJ Southern:
I’m telling you, I am always excited to talk to people on this side, in this informatics realm. So let’s go ahead and hop right into it. Robert, tell the people who you are, what you got going on. Give us a little snippet answer, who Robert is.

Robert Abda:
Sure, so my name is Robert Abda. I am a clinical informaticist, I’m a nurse, I’m an R.N. I’m going for my doctor of nursing practice as well. However, not the family nurse practitioner side of things, more of the leadership, healthcare executive leadership side of things.

TJ Southern:
Come on!

Robert Abda:
Right? I started off as a surgical nurse working perioperative services, did a little bit of pre-op, interop, PACU work, and then eventually went for my master’s in healthcare informatics and information systems. Went to informatics role at a local hospital like a rural-type hospital, and then was recruited later on by a corporate healthcare system where I am today, actually almost five years later.

TJ Southern:
Oh, my God. Okay, so what are you doing now in that role as a clinical informaticist? Y’all see this? I hope y’all got your pen and your paper now because when I bring these informaticists on, they drop nuggets for you guys who are looking for jobs, who you, guys who want to be in this industry. That is the whole point. So have your pen and paper ready. All right, Robert, tell us what you do right now in your position.

Robert Abda:
Absolutely, yeah. So currently I work at, for a corporate healthcare management company. Like I mentioned a little bit earlier, we work with the Cerner EMR system. However, for those individuals listening, there’s many pieces which I’m sure you’ve mentioned before, to informatics, and it really depends on the place that you’re hired as to the job that you’re going to be doing. So, for example, when I worked at a local hospital, I was doing a lot of education, kind of getting employees up to speed on new changes that were coming and potentially helping project manage some of the like, for example, workstation on wheels when they got rolled out, those types of projects. Now at the corporate level, we’re a little bit different. We do, we do project management, we do a little bit of custom development. There’s a little programming involved, for my position specifically, that’s not everybody, so you don’t need to know programming. I do a lot of project oversight and implementations, and I help support projects that I might have nothing to do with. So, for example, our behavioral health hospitals are starting to go live on our EMR system. I don’t work in the behavioral side of things, that’s a whole another division, but because our department kind of took on that Cerner project, we are kind of helping out where we need to in order to make the project a success.

TJ Southern:
Classic clinical informatics, y’all, classic, like Robert is bullseye on. I love how you stated what you do will depend upon the setting that you’re in. Informatics is not all one-all, you know, shot in the dark, right? Just this magic checkbox. It’s not. And that is why many of us love this world because there are so many things that you could do. Not only that, there are a lot of tentacles that Robert deals with that touches other things. So it gives you the opportunity to learn about other things outside of what it is that you’re doing. I love it, Robert. I love it. I love it. Okay, so what are some of the biggest changes that you’ve seen from starting at your first position to now, where you’re at now?

Robert Abda:
So there’s a lot of changes occurring around data and information transparency, especially with having access to your records. So everything for, like for example, we started a long time ago, we only had like CPO or computer physician ordering, so allowed them to place orders virtually. Now we have a whole integrated record system that allows access to all this data. So, I mean, even most recently, even been talking the 21st Century Cures Act. That’s going to be, I think it’s going to be in a couple of months now. I think August, maybe it’s going to start being enforced by CMS. That’s going to require hospitals to release information immediately. So everything from your imaging results, your stay, your hospital stay information, all that information has to be released immediately unless there’s you know, they meet certain information blocking type of exceptions. So everything, all the stuff with information transparency. Another kind of side note that impacts informatics, but not always necessarily something we directly work on, but it’s incorporated into everything we work on is cybersecurity.

TJ Southern:
Yes, number one y’all, number one.

Robert Abda:
Yeah, so everything, all the projects that we work on, cybersecurity is always in the back of your mind for everything. You know, is there a password for this? Is there a way to authenticate for that? When we do design work, like we have to work all that into our projects.

TJ Southern:
So let me tell you, cybersecurity, when we started this, when I started in this seat 15 years ago, we knew that it was back there, but it wasn’t as like such that prevalent thing, right, that’s here. Because, and I understand why cybersecurity because we have a lot of, you know, people out there that want this data, this healthcare data, but the thing that I love of how you explained it is, it’s the tandem between the two, the transparency of the data and the security of the data. You can’t have one without the other, and that is the one thing that I love about what’s getting ready to happen in healthcare and actually what is going on. The nurse informaticist will be able to be used, or the clinical informaticist will be able to be used, to be at the helm of those changes. So I love that. I love the fact that you brought those things up. So Robert, what is your organization right now doing to, so we know that you talked about data, data transparency. What is your organization doing right now with that data transparency, if you have a project that you can talk about, and are they using nurse informaticists to help them with that, those projects?

Robert Abda:
Absolutely, so, good question. Good question. So at my organization, we do have several nurse informaticists, so I’m not the only one. While I’m not working directly on that project, I do know that we’re utilizing our patient portal and other third-party applications that we interface with to provide that data transparency. So, you know, like those, if you go for a radiology study at our facility, it will be released to your portal. Like that’s sort of information. So like I said, I don’t work directly with it, but I know a little bit about what’s going on.

TJ Southern:
But you guys see that he knows a little bit about everything. That’s the one thing that I love about nurse informaticists, is that we still have to have our pinky toe in all of it, right? There’s still this level of awareness that we have to have of what’s going on around us. So with that being said, what do you think? What types of opportunities do you think will exist for the nurse informaticists?

Robert Abda:
Ooh, in the future and currently, so, well, I will say that we are still currently hiring for nurse informaticists where I am. We’re kind of, we’re constantly expanding, especially with our new like I said, that behavioral health project we started. So there’s constantly new experiences and new projects that need to occur within hospitals. You know, like we have the whole, like I said, the behavioral health project, e have many other projects kind of simmering, such as we’re developing what we call a total parental nutrition advisor, TPN. So we actually have an advisor that will walk the clinician through, how do you order this? Because there’s many steps, there’s many dosing recommendations based on age level and weight, and we provide the coding behind the scenes and the interface to kind of walk them through what Aspen, who’s, you know, kind of the key player in TPN dosing, we go by our Aspen guidelines for how to properly prescribe this medication. And while this seems like a pharmacy thing.

TJ Southern:
See? Let me tell you. TPN has always been something like, it’s almost been like, that copper penny at the bottom of the shoe, right? Because I remember in OB, this is huge, in women’s health, this is huge, because sometimes you do have moms that are on TPN and you have a lot of babies that are on TPN, right? And see? Here it is. We have nurses, nurse informaticists, clinical informaticists, that we’re bringing in to work on advisory councils and how we’re supposed to feed and what those guidelines are. So there’s policy involved in that, there’s research involved in that, there’s technology involved in that. So that is the one thing that, if I can’t stress enough about nursing informatics and informatics in general is that it’s this, it just has so many tentacles like an octopus. You don’t have to stay in one particular area, you can go and do so many things within informatics. But it is so exciting to hear about organizations, projects, that they are currently working on.

Robert Abda:
And I have a great example, actually. So within nursing informatics, specifically at the company that I work for, we’ve, I’ve been able to start my own, what we call Town Hall Education Sessions. So kind of talk about being able to go in and kind of expand your role and do what you want to do, not only what they make me do. You know, if you see an opportunity, make sure to voice your opinions, speak up, and chances are you’ll probably be taking ownership of that. But hopefully, it’s something that you enjoy doing, and you want to do anyway.

TJ Southern:
That’s a passion of yours. Look at that, town hall educator, and that’s the biggest thing about being a nurse informaticist. PSA, we’re educators, yes, we are! A lot of us, at our core, are educators. Wow, so now, let me ask you this because I heard to say that you guys are hiring and expanding in your department. Now, the thing about it is we have a lot of nurses that are at the bedside now, post-COVID, they’re wanting to transition over, right, into these roles. But a lot of times, for them to transition over, they don’t know what the role entails, right? Or they don’t understand what the role is. So how can we as current informaticists help educate those who are wanting to come in or transition in? What is it that we can do to support that crosswalk as they come in?

Robert Abda:
Good question. Good question and this is a question that I get often because I also have a lot of friends who are nurses who are looking to get out of bedside now. So kind of how I explained it to them is, you’re still a nurse, at the end of the day, you’re still a nurse, you’re just not at the bedside. You’re interacting with other nurses, you’re interacting with nurses who work bedside and you’re interacting with nurses, physicians, clinicians, and other individuals who work on the IT side of things. So your goal is to translate all that clinical knowledge into, how do we make the system work for us? Now, a stepping stone is to know what can the system do for me before I could tell you how to translate that? So sometimes the part that they don’t enjoy as much is learning how do you build in the system, because they want to do the clinical stuff. But in order to know what the system could do for the nurse, you have to know what the clinical system could do, period.

TJ Southern:
Building blocks, come on, Robert.

Robert Abda:
You have to build your way up to, exactly, build your way up to that position. Yeah, that’s kind of how I explain it to someone who’s interested. And so when you start, you might start kind of in an analyst role or someone who is doing a little bit more building because you already know the clinical part, we need to show you the building part. And then once you know that piece, then you’ll be able to go out there and manage your own projects and do your own design work, and, you know, how do I make this work in the system for our nurses?

TJ Southern:
I love how you broke that down. If there’s not one thing that you guys get from this task today, make sure that you understand the fundamentals of how to become a nurse informaticist. You may have to take an analyst job, which PSA, most of us do. That’s how we all started out. I got my job as my first job as an analyst job, I was a builder. I’m pretty sure Robert probably did the same thing. Come in as a builder. He said it so eloquently. You have to know what the system can do for you before you can go out and tell somebody else what the system truly can do. You have to be able to, as we say in our language, break it.

Robert Abda:
Absolutely.

TJ Southern:
You got to break it and then you got to mend it back together to make sure that it does exactly what it is that you want it to do. Because this nurse informaticist, the one part that a lot of nurses who are at bedside don’t understand, right? You’re still an advocate. So now we have come from that patient advocate side to now, we’re advocate for you as the nurse, as the clinician, right? It’s nurses advocating for other nurses on how to use the documentation and what we actually need to make your job easier, right? So that is one aspect of what it is that we do. And I love that, so, yes, we, this is the thing. We’re teaching you guys how to get over here. We’re teaching you guys how to get over here. So, Robert, what excites you the most? Is it healthcare informatics? Is it data analytics? Is it research? What is it that excites you the most in your current role?

Robert Abda:
Good question. So I would say what excites me most is probably the ability to help the most amount of patients by helping the people who take care of patients. Because at the end of the day, I’m a nurse and I got into nursing because I want to help people.

TJ Southern:
Love that.

Robert Abda:
And to kind of spur off of that, though, I think you spoke about, you mentioned analytics, too. I think predictive analytics has such a huge impact on helping the most amount of people, especially from a population health perspective. So I think that’s an exciting venue to get into.

TJ Southern:
Let me tell you, data analytics is like where it is at. It’s where it’s at. Like, especially for nurse informaticists, being able to not only, because now we were used to build the systems, right? So now we know what is in the system, but now to be able to extract it and analyze it, oh my god, it’s just like, boom. I cannot wait. That is my biggest thing in which I see this role going into that analytics side with the cybersecurity. So both of them in tandem together, Oh my god. Robert, I can’t wait to see what you do in the next five years, I promise you, I cannot wait.

Robert Abda:
It’s exciting stuff, I’m telling you. And, you know, don’t forget about the other things you could do as an informaticist. You know, there are jobs with Google, there’s Google Health. There’s jobs, you know, everybody’s looking for nurse information systems, and how nurses take advantage of IT. So a good example is I’m also an educator. I teach, I’m a faculty member, and I teach nursing informatics. So you don’t have to be at a corporate job building EMR systems, you could teach the future of nursing how to do it.

TJ Southern:
I’ll tell you, and I, let me, I appreciate the fact that you are faculty because that is the other thing with a lot of faculty. Faculty, I love y’all, I’m one of y’all. But in order to properly teach a subject, you have to have done it.

Robert Abda:
I wholeheartedly agree there, absolutely.

TJ Southern:
And what has happened now? We have a lot of nurse informaticists that are going into programs, but we do not have a lot of NI faculty going back to teach. So NIs, if you’re out there, we are educators, please go out there and teach and let people, let the nurses know, really give them a background of what it is that we are doing out here, make them excited about coming over to informatics, help them. That is why we have the Future of Global Informatics. My goal is to really just help informaticists really get to where they want to be. And we do that by interviewing and talking to informaticists, whether it’s nurses, whether it’s doctors. We have a doctor, a clinician informaticist on here. So whatever that may be, we just want to help you all come in. As you can tell, we absolutely love informatics. We love informatics. It is something that has definitely changed the landscape of healthcare. And of course, you know, nurses, we want to be at the helm. We want to be driving this stagecoach. And so that’s why we are here talking today. So one more thing, Robert.

Robert Abda:
Sure.

TJ Southern:
What do you think needs to be talked about to bring awareness to our role? Because here it is. Here it is. I’ve been a nurse informaticist now for 15 years, it sounds like you’ve been a nurse informaticist for at least 7 to 10 years. So how do we bring more awareness to this role? How do we bring more awareness to this role?

Robert Abda:
Great question. I think a lot of it does have to do with kind of doing things like this, like this podcast. I go to a lot of nurses and a lot of them come to me and say, oh, I didn’t realize nursing informatics was a thing. I think organically it’s going to happen, especially since EMR systems are so prevalent and they see where they are currently working, nursing informatics is a thing, you know what I mean? So I think just kind of organically it’s going to happen as EMR systems become even more and more and more abundant. I know currently now they are extremely abundant, but they’re still hospitals who don’t have them, you know what I mean? Like I said, at the behavioral health side, you know what I mean, it’s new to them.

TJ Southern:
Y’all hear that? we still don’t have EMRs everywhere. Long-term care, we don’t have EMRs at long-term care. Behavioral health, this is something that has always been a struggle for the 10, 15 years that I’ve been in behavioral health with the EMR has always been a struggle. So there are a lot of areas that still do not have EMRs. Nurses, we’re waiting on you. Help us.

Robert Abda:
Absolutely, yep. So between that and education in school, kind of taking that informatics course, having a good informatics faculty instructor hopefully can inspire.

TJ Southern:
Preceptorship, preceptorship!

Robert Abda:
Preceptorship, absolutely. We just started, in fact, taking informatics interns. So it’s definitely on the rise and something that’s an interest.

TJ Southern:
Did you? Well, we actually have a program called Informatics Preceptors where we match students with sites. So, yeah, I have done preceptors since 2014.

Robert Abda:
Wonderful, that’s great.

TJ Southern:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we have some exciting things that are happening. Okay, Robert, give us your final words. What is it that you would like to tell the people?

Robert Abda:
Well, what I would like to say is if you’re new, getting started, or interested in nursing informatics, start by looking it up online, do an easy Google search, see what it’s about, you know? If you want to read the scope and the, the scope and standards book that they have about nursing informatics, do that. See what a nurse informaticist does. Maybe look at some job roles online, you know, go to LinkedIn or other sites like Indeed and see what informaticist jobs are available to you. See what they do. As I mentioned earlier, informaticists tend to do a wide variety of things. So it’s important to pick a job that you think you’re going to be doing, something you’re interested in, but realize that you might have to do something that you’re not so interested in, to begin with, in order to build those building blocks to get to where you want to be. So I think that is probably the best message that I wanted to send.

TJ Southern:
Yeah! Look at Robert dropping the nuggets. I promise you all, y’all better have your pen or pencil ready when y’all come on The Future of Global Informatics, because these guests that I’m having, they can drop gems at any time. And when I tell you they’re giving us golden nuggets, they are giving us golden nuggets. So y’all stay tuned. Y’all, plug in. Thank you, Robert. This has been so amazing. We totally appreciate your time, your wisdom, your knowledge. Do you have a LinkedIn, social media accounts, anything like that that people can follow you on because we want to make sure that they know about Robert?

Robert Abda:
Absolutely. I do have a LinkedIn and yeah, that’s probably the best place to follow me is on LinkedIn.

TJ Southern:
Hey, y’all! Thanks for joining us today for another episode of the Outcomes Rocket Network – The Future of Global Informatics Podcast. If your organization is looking for informatics talent, go to www.Beryllus.net. That is www. B E R Y L L U S .net, and we can assist you in finding some of the best nursing informatics talent this continent has to offer. We’ll talk to you later! Have a great day! See ya!

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • There are many pieces to informatics, and your job depends on where you’re hired.
  • The 21st Century Cures Act will be enforced by CMS starting in August. It’s going to require hospitals to release medical information immediately.
  • There are constantly new experiences and projects that need to occur within hospitals, all opportunities for nurse informaticists. 
  • As a nurse informaticist, you’re constantly interacting with nurses who work bedside, physicians, clinicians, and other individuals who work on the IT side of things. Your goal is to translate all that clinical knowledge to make the system work.
  • You might start in an analyst role or as someone who is doing a little bit more building in the nursing informatics career.
  • It’s important to pick a job that you’re interested in and ignites your passion.

Resources:

  • Connect and Robert Abda on LinkedIn
  • For more information on topics related to informatics or on finding talented informaticists for your organization, please visit the Beryllus Website