Are you wondering what working in healthcare informatics is like?

What it’s like to work in healthcare informatics

Jana Pownell, RN, DNP, is a Health Systems Deployment Lead at the Veterans Health Administration. She holds a master’s degree in education, as well as a master’s in nursing and nursing leadership. Not only does she have experience as an RN, but Pownell spent the past few years working as a nurse informaticist for the VA.

Pownell is the Program Director for Concordia University’s Master’s in Nursing – Healthcare Informatics. More than that, she’s living proof of how nurses can leverage their clinical experience into leadership positions. Nurses are on the front lines when it comes to patient care. This is why it’s so important for nurses to be trained in healthcare informatics and hold leadership positions. These leadership positions impact patient care on a large scale.

Today, in her current work as a Deployment Lead, Pownell shares what an average day on the job is like.

Note: Pownell’s responses are written in italics. 

Working in healthcare informatics
Jana Pownell Program Director, MSN-Healthcare Informatics

Tell us about your position.

My current position is virtual. I recently moved from a nurse informaticist role at the Central Iowa VA hospital to the EHRM (electronic health record modernization) Deployment Lead role for a Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN).

The network consists of 8 hospitals and more than 40 clinics in Iowa and its surrounding states. The Veterans Health Administration is implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) across all its hospital systems. It has been a humongous undertaking, and honestly, the first deployment at a hospital out West did not go well.

The bright side was that my current role was created to assist with future deployments at other networks and their healthcare systems (HCS). Each of the 8 HCS have a Change Leadership Team (CLT). My job is to manage those teams in addition to coordinating, planning, implementing, and monitoring all the activities related to the EHRM deployment at the VISN level.

How do you prepare yourself for your workday?

First things first: coffee

I prepare myself each day with a lot of coffee – I have it waiting for me when I wake up each morning. After a cup (or two), I take a walk, jog, or watch the news. Monday through Friday, I meet with my team at 7:30 a.m. – virtually – for a morning huddle. Here, we discuss any team-related safety concerns and provide quick updates on current projects. Next, we go through any issue briefs that have been sent out from the network.

My flexible schedule allows me to share in the responsibilities of taking my son to school. My next briefing is at 8:15, led by the Network Director. Chiefs and directors run through any need-to-know information at this briefing. Following that meeting, my day consists mostly of more meetings and work on projects.

Having the freedom to create solutions and support others

It sounds boring, I know. But, the autonomy in this role allows me to flex my knowledge and skills in project management, informatics, and medicine. Several of these meetings relate directly to the EHR deployment. But, I also sit in on meetings or as a member of committees related to various departments. Some of these include information services, biomedical engineering, healthcare operations, patient safety, informatics, and quality improvement.

Currently, the VISN is in a bit of a holding pattern for the EHRM deployment. I’ve been assisting other departments like the Chief Medical Office with creating or updating their SharePoints. I’ve also helped with developing mobile applications that will be used to streamline the provider evaluation process. Also, I’ve been able to help create report visualizations using data analytics products such as Tableau and PowerBI.


What’s the first thing you do when you open your laptop?

I open up Microsoft Teams and Outlook so that I can check my schedule for the day. Priorities change day to day, but I usually spend my initial minutes jotting down questions for upcoming meetings or preparing for any meeting in which I am presenting information.


What constitutes a “busy” day?

I haven’t been in this role for very long. But, there are days when I have so many meetings, I must put off any project work – which of course, have deadlines.


If you’re working remotely, how do you stay connected to in-person teammates?

My team meets every morning for a quick briefing. We stay in touch throughout the day. The main office for the VISN is in Eagan, MN, and my directors encourage me to spend time there and at the other VISN hospitals to get to know people in face-to-face settings.


Do you take breaks?

It depends on the day but yes, I try to take walks throughout the day. The flexibility of my job also allows me to run an errand here and there, throw in a load of laundry, or prep dinner, while still putting in my 8 hours for the day.


What absolutely needs to get finished before the end of the work day?

I have had to work very hard to develop a healthy work-life balance, so rarely is there anything that must be finished by the end of my workday. I remind myself that when something feels overwhelming or pressing, this work is not life or death like it was working in the intensive care unit. 


Do you want to know more?

Informatics really is a game-changer for nurses. Pownell shared, “When I first introduce myself to bedside nurses who do not know me, their first response is usually – ‘Great, now I am going to have to do more!’ But, my role is the exact opposite. How can I make your documentation more efficient and effective? How can I do this while increasing quality and safety at the same time? Then, I’m thinking about improving data collection. This would allow the data to be used on the back end to again, improve the outcomes of patients.”

Make your move into healthcare informatics

Do you love efficiency and improving patient care? If this sounds like you, consider moving into healthcare informatics. If you’re interested in learning more about Concordia’s Master’s in Nursing-Healthcare Informatics, visit us here.




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