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What’s In For Me in “In-for-matics”

9 January 2012

Hey friends, after a gruelling first semester of graduate studies, I return! It’s been an intense learning curve, and a process of becoming. I felt a lot of pressure with every assignment, knowing that ideally, all course work will contribute eventually to my thesis. This expectation makes it difficult to have the attitude “it’s just one assignment, get it over with!”. Notwithstanding these anxieties, I’ve identified my area of interest in health informatics, and completed a literature review and research proposal (yay!).

The text below is from an assignment question with the following instructions:

  • “You bring to health informatics a personal perspective based on your experience, prior education and training. Describe how you plan to use that to advance health informatics generally and more specifically your area of interest. “
Writing the response to this question was particularly thought-provoking, and I thought I’d share it with you here:

I chose to pursue the study of health information science largely due to my interest in communications, systems, and technology that have emerged from my experiences as a Registered Nurse. A desire to build competencies in health informatics in myself, and in the nursing profession, and respect for the significance of data and information motivated me to further my education. Experience as a direct care provider in a complex health environment has shown me the importance of information skills and access to information resources, which impact decisions not only within the clinical domain, but also those that fall under administrative responsibilities.

The patients and clients I have provided care to have necessitated appreciation for the various aspects of health care delivery, including educational services, accessibility considerations, various points of care and care environments, and socioeconomic and geographical challenges. Perhaps the best representation of my personal perspective of health care is the social determinants of health, or the conditions within which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the health care system. Strong health care information systems and responsible use of such systems can help to address information disparities, and resulting health inequities. However, there is limited terrain in health informatics that I can achieve through clinical interventions; health care provider behaviours and actions must complement consumer information initiatives, which require their own distinct development strategies.

Communication and empathy training in nursing education, solidified through clinical practice in areas deeply qualitative and painstakingly complicated, such as mental health, oncology, foreign field work, and care for children with life-limiting disabilities led me to believe that I had a firm grasp with which to relate to clients and families. In the past 18 months an unanticipated illness has led to an experience as a patient and consumer of the health care system, giving me a breadth of understanding that I could not possibly have gained in my role as a clinician. Sustaining acute medical conditions and subsequent chronic illness that have affected my physical abilities, mental capacity, work life, and personal relationships has afforded me the lived experience on the other side of the professional care relationship. With enhanced comprehension of the disempowerment poor health can lead to, and firsthand testament to the role of health information in recovery and maintenance, I return to my role as a health care professional with a renewed awareness of and value for client health information needs.

These experiences have led to a specific interest in consumer health informatics and its potential to inform practice standards and professional competencies, which may ultimately lead to revolutionized health care education and training. Further to this potential, health informatics accomplishes the principals of primary health care, in particular, accessibility, public participation, and appropriate technology. From this, I take motivation to extend consumer health informatics to public health initiatives and frameworks, addressing health issues related to everyday lifestyle and activities of healthy people, which again highlights the significance of social determinants. There is also potential for population health promotion to meet the needs of Canadian subpopulations through intersectoral collaboration, delivering health information and services within explicit care contexts. A health promotion approach to consumer health information holds implications for partnerships between the health industry and primary- and secondary- education. Preparing a population of future health literate consumers is just as important as interventions for the current adult population of consumers.

With these thoughts helping to create my intentions for my contributions to health informatics, I bring forward a unique approach to consumer health information and the client-provider relationship. I aspire to extend the concept of clinical interventions informed by consumer health, information, and social status to the larger, overarching approach to health care; this I hope to achieve by taking a role within the scholarship of teaching and learning in nursing education in the future. I am attracted to this environment because of the opportunities for further research, knowledge utilization studies, and access to an environment in which to integrate health informatics into undergraduate health sciences education, and positively influence the future health outcomes of Canadians.

Thanks for reading! After gauging the workload of my first semester, I hope to establish a better balance in my life this semester, and of course, to blog more :D

Writeya soon!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 January 2012 06:05

    I don’t think I even understood everything :). But you seem to be a unique position since you’ve had first hand experience as a client of health services. All the best!

    • 10 January 2012 10:02

      Thanks Addie! I don’t always understand it all either – I’m going to refer to this phenomenon as “thesis brain” lol. If you ever want to share info about your own experience navigating the health system, I’m all ears :)

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