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Why Digital Nursing Matters – A Supplier’s Perspective

15 March 2021

With technology at the forefront of innovation and transformation in healthcare, nurses working in the digital space - whether for the NHS or supplier organisations - are crucial for the successful and safe adoption of these technologies. 

Nurses account for around 80% of clinical digital users but have historically been under-represented in digital roles within the NHS.  Conversely many suppliers have significantly more nurses in digital roles than other clinical professions.

In newfound recognition of the role of digital nurses, many NHS organisations are now starting to recruit Chief Nurse Information Officers (CNIOs) and with the creation of a National CNIO for England, Natasha Phillips, the pace of change is clearly accelerating. There is no doubt that there is now an agenda to become more inclusive from both a multi-professional, industry and diversity perspective.   

I have experience of being a senior nurse in the NHS and of working in a digital nursing role for a supplier and therefore have some insight into the value of each and the benefits that successful partnership between supplier and NHS organisation can bring. 

At the beginning of 2014 I had no intention of leaving the NHS when an opportunity to work for a healthcare technology company came out of left field, piqued my interest, and ultimately set my career onto a new path.  At that time, I was corporate Head of Nursing for Practice Development, having previously held the role of Head of Nursing for the Surgery and Surgical Specialties division at the same DGH.   After almost 30 years in nursing, in different organisations, different roles and at different levels it was a risk to leave the NHS and move into a digital role in industry.  However, at that time, with a dearth of these roles within the NHS, there were few options to carve out a career as a digital nurse within the NHS, despite technology being identified as the next ‘big thing’ in healthcare. 

I now work for System C, which employs many nurses, midwives and AHPs in a variety of roles, and of whom the majority maintain their professional registration.  Some are embedded within the teams that design and develop the software as Subject Matter Experts or as Product Managers.  Our Clinical Safety Team, led by the Patient Safety Director, are all experienced registered nurses.  There are also nurses who are implementation specialists, supporting the Trusts in deployment. I am part of the Clinical Adoption team, all of us nurses and midwives, with a remit to support our EPR sites from before contract signature, through to the planning and governance around digital transformation, to using the data to optimise workflows and benefits post go-live.

The role is very varied and rewarding - each project is inevitably different from the one before, but organisational culture can also make a big difference.  In my experience, some NHS organisations have a more open and positive approach than others to working in partnership with supplier companies and their clinical teams. They understand that nurses working for suppliers can add significant value as they are experienced in both clinical practice and digital transformation. At a time when many healthcare organisations are early in their digital transformation journeys and have relatively newly-appointed clinical digital leads, there is a real opportunity to learn from and be supported by supplier-based nurses. 

I am passionate about my role as a Clinical Adoption Specialist.  I work with my colleagues to support the development of our clinical solutions, ensuring they meet the needs of the NHS frontline.  I also work with and guide and support customers to successfully roll out, adopt and optimise the use of our EPR . And I support NHS organisations to use their data to improve and transform services.  I believe that working in true partnership with our NHS customers and colleagues, with the shared objective of improving patient safety and outcomes through the use of technology - while always cognisant that the systems do not and should not replace the human and their clinical expertise - will engender a successful digital transformation of the NHS.