Informatics skills – If you always do

‘If you always do what you have always done,

you will always get what you always got’

I see this everywhere, urging us to change; I am a bit bored with it to be honest but it does have an irritating ring of truth about it.

Nurse keyboardI’ve been thinking about the skills that nurses, midwives and health visitors need now and for the future over the last week, as a result of meeting 100s of nurses and talking to them about informatics. What I do know is that technology has already impacted on practice and I feel sure it will continue to do so. These days, as I only spend short rare periods on the ward, I often can’t use a piece of new equipment and have to ask someone to help. Informatics – that is both the use of information resources and technology – have an insidious impact on practice and increasingly are woven into the work we do with patients.

dream jobWhy is it then that we continue to write job descriptions (JDs) that could have been written 2 decades ago when I was a ward sister? They seem old fashioned and if they are trying to describe what nurses need to do they are dull, dull, dull. Nursing is one of the most exciting and diverse jobs I can think of yet if you go and pick up a vacancy on NHS Jobs and open the job description I suspect you might feel underwhelmed. In a competitive labour market surely we need to do better than this? These JDs are like a window into your organisations!

Two years ago I collaborated on a piece of work with Professor Dawn Dowding. We randomly sampled job descriptions taken from NHS Jobs on a single day and analysed them to look for the skills relating to informatics. I was yet again underwhelmed. You can see the full publication here (sorry its pay walled).

In a world where using information and technology are almost routine parts of our lives these JDs were shocking. Few referred to using information in a modern way although there were oblique references to some of these concepts. 16571920_sOne of the most powerful feelings I came away with was the rules driven Information Governance agenda with the focus on ‘thou shall not’ with no focus what-so-ever on how sharing information can improve safety. I am pleased that since then the Caldicott 2 review has corrected this perception but a quick scan on NHS Jobs reveals that this is still not evident in JDs.

Nursing is a modern profession. It is continually reshaping itself to meet the needs of the people we care for. Job Descriptions reflect how we see roles, how we recruit people with the skills to do the job and these in turn inform workforce plans that help us to educate the future workforce. We need modern nurses who are skilled users of information and technology to meet the challenges of the future. But if we always describe nursing in the ways often expressed in JDs, we will always get what we always got!

Here is a my take on a redraft – Nurse Draft JD – as an example of a more modern JD. I am not saying it is right, it was developed with my particular focus and was drafted before the 6Cs Compassion in Practice strategy but I believe it has the informatics skills woven through it, just like the use of information and technology are woven into practice. I just wanted to show how informatics could be described without asking for ‘Computer Skills’!!!!

We need to up our game.

technology future


7 thoughts on “Informatics skills – If you always do

  1. Excellent blog, Annie and you are doing a fantastic job of raising awareness in this important area. I did not really understand the term ‘informatics’ until I heard you speak at the Florence Nightingale Conference in February, and I found the whole topic very interesting and revealing.

    I have just published a guest blog by Shahana Ramsden about the NHS ‘Open House’ events this week (Tuesday 17 June in four locations). These events are further opportunities to explore the effective use of technology in the modern NHS, including both patient and staff perceptions. The events are fully subscribed but people are encouraged to join the conversation online, including on Twitter – #NHSOpenHouse.

  2. Some important points here about how we represent contemporary nursing maybe we should ask a bunch of non nurses and student nurses to write what they see nurses do and compare it , how interesting that would be . We might find that there are a number of disconnects which would help us learn . Nursing is not dull but our JDs and also our description and stories of what it actually is does need updating.

  3. Thank you Anne. I have personal experience of drafting JD’s with an informatics thread weaved throughout. This was diluted with the final approved version asking only for ‘keyboard skills’. All Organisations should now be embracing the potential for informatics to improve outcomes and care delivered and value these skills in the current and future workforce. Recruitment processes is a start.

  4. hi Angela
    I have seen JDs that express using information and technology as ‘keyboard skills’ and they depress me beyond words! But I hope things are changing. Everyone is talking about how technology can help us to meet the challenges we face. Its time we started recognising it in out workforce systems. :0) Anne

  5. I love reading your blogs so much. Having spent the last 8 years as an IT consultant before embarking on my nursing degree I spend lots of my time wondering what I could do if only I had this or that information – what wonders I could discover and what changes I could make. I wonder what databases look like, how data is linked, what is actually captured in a meaningful and useful manner versus what we idly collect on our paperwork. I don’t want to waste all that knowledge as I feel that I could really make a difference in my nursing profession if only I had the chance but I fear that those skilled will not be used beyond fixing the format of the handover documentation which is demorilising. I want to aim higher and do better!

  6. Informatics skills - If you always do | Health ...

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