Chad Hiner, RN, MS
Executive Director, Healthcare
“Chad Hiner graduated from the CIPCT Master of Science in 2010. He currently works at nVoq, a company that develops speech recognition software solutions. Here Chad talks about how the CIPCT master’s program gave him the skills, knowledge and credentials to advance in his career.”
Can you tell us a bit about your current career?
“I’m the director of healthcare industry solutions at nVoq. I work with our software engineers to develop a product that allows nurses, doctors and other end users do their jobs more efficiently by using speech.
I also work with our end users to help them optimize the use of their electronic medical records. I worked as a Registered Nurse for 15 years in a variety of roles – at the bedside providing direct patient care, in clinical education and in clinical informatics – so I understand clinical workflow.”
Why did you decide to earn the CIPCT master’s degree?
“During my time working as a nurse, I noticed that a lot more technology was being infused into health care. I also noticed that a lot of nurses and doctors struggled with it, but I always viewed technology as a benefit. I realized the benefits of accessing critical patient information at the point of care, and having this information available for the entire health care team. As a result of having more of a positive attitude and being open to learning new things, I was asked to participate in a variety of IT implementations.
When I saw that there was an informatics master’s degree program being offered at the University of Washington, I jumped at the opportunity. With everything that is going on with electronic medical records, there is a big demand for people who have a clinical background and can understand how technology works. The program fit perfectly for me.”
Were the online classes helpful for you?
“Yes. I’m married with three children and have a busy life. The flexibility of being able to take the program and continue to work was the reason why I was able to ultimately complete it and get a master’s degree.”
Do you think having this master’s degree helped you get your current job? Do you think it will help you in your career down the road?
“I absolutely wouldn’t have this job without completing this program. When you come out of the program and you have a history working as a nurse or any sort of clinical background, and you have a master’s degree in that specialty, you’re highly marketable. You could work for a variety of companies – it could be in informatics at a hospital, in an analyst role or working for a technology company. All those jobs are readily available for graduates of this program.
If your current role in health care is not challenging you and not providing you with the opportunity to grow professionally, getting a master’s degree will. It can open up the door to many rewarding opportunities.”
What are some of your biggest takeaways from the program?
“There are a lot of IT projects going on right now in hospitals throughout the country. Technology is being introduced to clinicians every day in hospitals, and they badly need people who understand the clinical workflow associated with providing care and the role technology plays in patient care.
It’s not just about promoting technology – it’s about promoting the right technology at the right time. That’s really what you learn in the informatics program. You have to keep your clinical hat on and then understand how technology is being used, and use it appropriately.”
Do any classes stand out as especially interesting or valuable?
“I would say both the project management class and the database course were especially valuable. The project management class was very useful, because every company uses project management principles that help them organize their work in a structured way. The database management class was also valuable – the basic understanding of how data is collected, stored and queried is fundamental.”
Did you have a chance to work with other students on group projects?
“The clinical informatics program is very collaborative and you work with a lot of other students who have similar backgrounds. They’re all doing something different. You learn a lot about what’s going on out there because everybody comes to it from a similar angle, but a little bit different.”
Did the program offer real-world experience in the form of a thesis or scholarly project?
“Yes. My thesis was on the use of a real-time dashboard that collected data from electronic medical records and made it available in real time for doctors and nurses, to help them prioritize and make sure that they’re following evidence-based guidelines. I was part of a small group of clinicians that participated in a hospital-wide implementation of the dashboard.
To be part of the implementation team was an excellent experience. It was really fascinating to look at the data, and we were able to demonstrate that the dashboard was successful in improving adherence to evidence based guidelines, but the project itself was unsuccessful because the clinicians did not like it.
What I learned was that in order to implement technology successfully, you have to engage your end users – the people who are going to actually use the product – early on in the design of the product. That’s where we failed. Even though the project failed, I learned many valuable lessons.”
What did the instructors bring to the program?
“They had real-world experience, and that was helpful. This program is geared to move somebody into a decision-making role. When you graduate from the program you’re going to be put in a position where they’re asking you to get something done, and not just theorize about it. I did appreciate the fact that the program is taught by practical people who have been engaged in more than just research.”
What was the best thing for you about the program?
“You’re fully supported. You have a professor, you have somebody you’re accountable to, who you can reach out to and get help from. You have other students that you’re continually interacting with and working collaboratively with. There’s a very structured format that you follow to complete the required coursework.
If you put a lot into it, you will get a lot out of it, and when you finish the program you will have a great understanding of the struggles and challenges that hospitals and providers are experiencing with the influx of technology. You will also be prepared to help them!”
Stephen Kamau, MS, RN
Franciscan Health System
Q: Please give a brief overview of your current role in the health care informatics field.
“I spend most of my time researching efforts focused on achieving Meaningful Use (MU). By Meaningful Use, I am referring to the federal government program that offers financial incentives to those Eligible Providers (both hospitals and professionals) that use a Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) to improve patient outcomes. I am also tasked with evaluating and selecting additional technology that can be paired with our CEHRT to improve interoperability and determining end-user requirements and optimizations of our current Electronic Health Record (EHR). I am also slowly trying to dip my hands into the project management side of informatics.”
Q: From a student perspective, how would you describe the CIPCT program?
“As a former student, I truly appreciate the high quality of training in both qualitative and quantitative methods in research. I also enjoyed the different real-life simulated projects that gave me an understanding of what to expect after graduation. Online learning was new to me but I can now see the value since some of my interactions with leadership takes place through online platforms.”
Q: How did the CIPCT program prepare you for your current position?
“From a clinical standpoint, the CIPCT program at UW opened doors for me to experience a high level of interaction through group collaborations with fellow students and faculty professors, and learn how to become an innovative leader ready to help contribute to the field of informatics. The research skills I learned through the program helped me realize the value of IT in healthcare, which made my transition to the informatics environment seamless; I fit in immediately. The CIPCT program also offered me a rare opportunity to intern at a reputable HIT consulting firm on a $400M revenue project that boosted my research and analytical skills significantly. Immediately after graduation I took on a challenge and successfully led a small community hospital in rural Washington through its first phase of Meaningful Use in less than 4 months from implementation to successful attestation. The skills I attained through the program proved to be extremely vital and they continue to be even more essential now in my current role as a clinical informaticist of a much bigger organization.”
Q: What advice would you offer to students entering the program this year?
“Let me start by saying that graduate school is a full-time job. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. What I can tell those joining the program this year, especially those coming from a clinical background, is what I wish someone had told me prior to joining the program: Try to stay one week ahead of course readings and assignments… Read, research and read some more! This will allow you to stay on top of your work and give you leeway for any unexpected extra work involving research. Treat graduate school like a nine-to-five job as much as you can but also find an avenue to take some of that stress off. My outlet was photography and blogging; I found a health informatics blog that not only contributed to my knowledge of informatics but also served as a networking platform. Find what works for you, go to the museum or go biking… Whatever you can do to take you mind off school work for a few hours a week will be worth it in the end. I did not put off my family for schoolwork, and I also did not put off schoolwork for my family—I found a balance. Make connections while in the program, as life sometimes deals us with situations we cannot avoid, and you will need these friends to get you up to speed if you miss any school-related work. One last piece of advice: the textbooks I used as a graduate student in the program are actually still in my office and are an important resource in my daily work. I just wish I spent more time reading these books while in school; they are a wealth of knowledge, especially for a relatively new discipline such as clinical informatics and patient-centered technologies. If I had to do this again, I would make sure I identified and researched areas for my thesis/project within the first year of the program, and at least have my name as a co-author in 1-2 scientific research papers published before graduations. I realized faculty was extremely willing to assist with this but I had to make the initiative—now you know!”
Q: Where do you see the field of clinical informatics heading in the next 5 years?
“Like one of my former instructors said, we have to be “technorealists”. With the introduction of electronic health systems and the push for additional infrastructure, the field of informatics is already facing numerous challenges that come with integrating nursing science and computer science and finding a fair balance. The frustrations are already starting to build with the federal government mandate to have healthcare organizations put in place a certified electronic health system by 2014, and sadly the current generation of clinicians is not adapting well to this dynamic environment and organizational leaders are having a hard time meeting these requirements. There is a gap that exists. A gap that calls for well-trained Informaticists, but the demand is far outpacing their availability. For those looking to transform the healthcare industry through information science, the underlying science and practice of health are in continuous transformation, and clinical informatics as a discipline is strongly affected by these changes but also in a position to be a key, active contributor in the coming years.”
Marjorie Kelley, RN, MS
Department of Biomedical Informatics
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
“Like many CIPCT students, I had a different experience than most on-campus graduate students, as I was a distance learner; I “commuted” from Columbus, OH. I flew in for orientation days at the beginning of each year, but for the rest of the year I attended classes virtually. I didn’t feel I missed much and the other students were more than willing to work with me via Skype, Google plus, or DropBox. Even the instructors were helpful and flexible in that regard. I loved the course content, and as a nurse I felt even more excited when we stepped out of our domain and into the computer science and database worlds.
Because of the vast array of experiences, and the training in collaboration, over distance, I was more than prepared to take a position in research in informatics. I am also currently taking classes for my PhD and was happy to discover how well prepared I was for research. The building blocks I gained from UW were important from a technical, QI and research standpoint. The field is changing so rapidly, and whether you work in translational informatics, clinical informatics, research informatics or somewhere in between, the skills acquired through your work at UW are transferable and transformative. The skills overlap in every area of healthcare and are always needed. Currently I work on projects as varied as cytogenetics parsers, app development for EMRs, and even help with rare disease registry construction. The UW program prepared me to be a part of all these varied processes because informatics is the glue that holds it all together.
I would encourage all students to work hard, read as much as you possibly can, think deeply on some of the real world issues given to you as assignments, read outside of your classwork about areas that interest you, and find a good mentor to discuss current issues in informatics… someone that shares your passion. Challenge yourself and your fellow students and you will find the process much more rewarding in the long run.
Good luck with your studies… and hurry up, we need more glue!”
Angie Mendoza, MS, BSN, RN-BC, CPHIMS
Senior Systems Analyst
San Diego, CA
“I started my nursing career in Women’s Health working as a postpartum/newborn nurse. After 15 years, I was working as a Clinical Informatics Specialist at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego. I was nervous to go back to school in 2011. After all, it had been a long time since I last was in school! However, the CIPCT program was wonderful supporting my needs as a working adult. There was flexibility when I needed it for work or personal issues, the staff and faculty were supportive and helped me overcome struggles as they arose, and the program succeeded in teaching me how much there is to learn in Informatics, healthcare organizations, Healthcare IT, data management, and more. In my current role as a Sr. Systems Analyst, CIPCT’s variety of clinical and technical areas of study both strengthened my nursing background as well as taught me many skills related to computer science and healthcare systems. This combination gave me the expertise necessary to positively affect quality patient care, support process improvement, enable our clinicians in their use of technology, and enhance the EMR in our organization.
My best advice to those preparing to enter the CIPCT program is to get to know your instructors. They are excellent resources and are there to help you succeed! In addition, participate in all the learning opportunities offered, get involved with research opportunities that you know nothing about so you can expand your learning, get to know your group work team members so you can learn from each other (I treasure the relationships I developed), embrace the spirit of UW and its commitments, and most of all HAVE FUN! The work you do in CIPCT will make you better and more valuable!
Informatics has exploded over the last five years, so I am anxious to see what it will do in the next five years! I envision there will be more dollars put toward informatics as the realized benefit of our expertise expands beyond clinical support in a hospital. The need for informaticists is growing by leaps and bounds in areas such as self-care, home health, hospice care, primary care, software development, and so many others. The Informatics train is steaming full speed ahead. Get on board and enjoy the ride!”
Diane Nguyen, RN, MS
Clinical Applications Coordinator
Nursing Information Systems Department
VA Puget Sound
Diane graduated from the CIPCT program in August of 2009 and currently works as a Clinical Applications Coordinator (CAC) for the Nursing Information Systems department at the VA Puget Sound. As a CAC, Diane uses her clinical knowledge and applies them to help support clinical computer programs and documentation for optimal patient care delivery. Her role includes supporting the VA’s electronic health record CPRS (Computerized Patient Record System) with template building and maintenance, training nursing staff and students on the use of CPRS, as well as supports other computer programs in the hospitals for continued clinical processes and workflow for patient care delivery.
“The faculty in the CIPCT program were extremely supportive in my career development. When I moved out of state towards the end of my program, I was able to continue and complete the program via distance learning options…When I graduated, the faculty on my thesis committee recommended publishing my manuscript for further growth. Their motivation and support helped me both academically and professionally.”
Patrick Treese, RN, MS
Sr. Applications Operations Analyst
Clinical Education and Practice
Swedish Medical Center
Patrick graduated from the CIPCT program in June 2009 and now works as a Senior Applications Operations Analyst for Clinical Education and Practice. Patrick helps integrate nursing practice with clinical informatics by providing creative informatics design solutions, informatics project management, and clinical data reporting and analysis. Projects he has worked on recently include leading the design and implementation of multidisciplinary patient education documentation tool, designing analytic reports on clinical documentation compliance for a new nursing assessment project, and assisting with research design and data analysis for nursing research on post anesthesia pain.
“The CIPCT program helped to integrate my clinical knowledge and expertise with information and computer science allowing me to emerge as a clinical informatics leader at my organization.”
Yukiyo Tsuchida, RN, MS
Providence Health and Services
Yukiyo graduated from the CIPCT program in August of 2010 and obtained her position within four months of completing the degree. Her position as an Applications Analyst requires her to analyze and design systems that meet organizational, departmental, and user requirements. She also tests applications, provides user support, and offers troubleshooting to ensure clinical end user’s needs are met. She specifically designs and supports systems which are used within the Perioperative work environment.
“I strongly feel that I gained knowledge and skills in computing and information technology which are essential for informaticians. Starting the CIPCT program, I did not have any previous experience or knowledge of clinical informatics, although I was always curious about it. The CIPCT program covers various technical contents such as data management, EHR, and database design. The program also provided me with organizational management skills and a good understanding of the healthcare delivery system. Gaining a skill set in these areas coupled with my previous experience as an OR nurse has allowed me to gain a foothold in the health care community of clinical informatics.”