I think I’m probably a ‘knowledge worker’. I didn’t know anything about being a knowledge worker until I got a new brilliant boss who has the brain the size of a small planet. Once she got to know me and how I did my work she told me I was a knowledge worker and one who capitalised on networks, building relationships and connecting people. The work on knowledge workers and the role in how we organise work is quite interesting but it isn’t the focus of this blog – if you want to read a little bit more then there is a link here to work by Rheinhardt et al (2011).
One of the downsides of being a knowledge worker, along with the need to be up on your game at all times, is it can be quite lonely – you sit at the edge of most groups; your role is to move around and bring and take knowledge. It’s true that I am often not a central member of a team; I move in and out and hopefully add value along the way.
Working as a nurse in informatics means that my role is often to act as a translator between IT folk and nurses; I have to have enough knowledge to be able to explain the perspective of the other group and work hard to bring the groups together, as I know that if people from technical backgrounds work more closely with the clinical and patient communities then the success of any project is more likely or it is more probable that a better solution will be found. It’s also a bit like a facilitator of co-production! If you want to know more about this I recommend this video. The need to see it from both sides is essential and the knowledge worker uses knowledge to facilitate learning and understanding from both perspectives.
Unfortunately in informatics it leads to seeing both the best and the worst of people. Over the last few weeks I have become frustrated by how people blame others about lack of progress. I have worked with some brilliant IT people; clever, caring and dedicated to working to make health services better, their drive to do the right thing sometimes shocks me, even now after 10 years of working with them. Clinical staff are not the only ones who care. Of course nurses are like this too, most nurses strive to do the best that they can and improve and I have witnessed this many times in the last 30 years.
Why is it then that I still hear one group blaming the other for a problem?
- ‘The IT staff don’t understand us and what we do!’
- ‘IT just give us the kit and walk away – they never listen’
- ‘The nurses are not interested in IT really because they will never engage’
- ‘Nurses never come to our meetings’
What I see is that all these things are true. But there is a risk that if we continue to blame we fail to recognise that the single most important thing that we need to do is learn to work productively together; for nurses that means making the IT folk your friends and listening to their ideas and plans and for the IT folk, it’s respecting nurses and helping them to understand the potential of IT. Why not go out with a district nurse if you want to understand or get down onto those wards?
The boundaries that seem to exist are not real but I am getting exhausted climbing over the wall between nurses and IT!
So my piece of knowledge that I’m trying to share is that if we are going to innovate using technology the relationship between clinical staff and technical staff needs to change to one of partnership, mutual respect and trust. It’s the only way we can do this.