1. Sugrue, Mark RN

Article Content

In this interview, Mark has provided us with insights into his role in the field of nursing informatics.


Q: What Is Your Title/Position?


I am a director in a healthcare consulting firm called TRC Health Solutions. My current responsibilities include providing healthcare management consulting services to clients. The services we provide include strategic, financial, operations, and technology solutions that help our clients succeed.


From an informatics perspective, I assist our clients in making strategic decisions about new technology investments and how to adopt those solutions to their unique environment while achieving optimal outcomes.


Q: What Is Your Professional Background?


In addition to my clinical background (registered nurse) I have 10 years of experience with a healthcare software vendor and 7 years of professional services (healthcare management consulting) experience.


The software vendor experience provided me the opportunity to design and implement clinical systems, including clinical documentation, computerized physician order entry, and electronic health records. I implemented systems in hospitals across the globe and developed an appreciation for various healthcare delivery models.


Through consulting, I gained a much deeper understanding of the healthcare industry overall and particularly the many challenges the industry faces. Through my consulting experience, for example, I developed deep expertise in HIPAA. As a nurse, I understood the implications of the law at an operational level and was able to translate that into meaningful terms and recommendations for our clients. In addition, consulting provided me the "polish" and professional background I needed to be able to communicate effectively with members of the leadership team.


Q: Why Did You Choose Nursing Informatics?


I think in many ways nursing informatics chose me! The organization I was working for after obtaining my undergraduate degree was seeking clinical people who were interested in learning about computer technology. My understanding of the clinical environment and the related processes was something the organization (a medical software vendor) valued. When I was hired, I had very limited technology experience. I developed technical expertise on the job. Frommypoint of view, this is not at all unlike what happens on a regular basis when a nurse changes units or specialties. You come in with what you know; it is scary at first, but then you learn something new. In my opinion, that's professional development!


Q: What Is the Most Important Thing for an Informatics Nurse to Know?


Interestingly, I believe it's not computers or technology! I think the most important thing for an informatics nurse to know is change management. Change management is a discipline that requires an understanding of how organizational and individual behavior can impact the success or failure of an initiative. I am grossly oversimplifying this, but change management is a critical element of what nursing informatics professionals do on a daily basis.


Sometimes as nurses we don't give ourselves enough credit for what we do know. Nurses, for example, understand clinical processes better than anybody because we have to! Nurses are also change experts-new medications, new equipment, our patients, our practice, etc. These all change very rapidly, and we have to react to that change. Typically, nurses adapt to new technology quickly (beds, monitors, pumps, implantable devices, etc) and can multitask.


Q: What Advice Would You Give to Nurses Considering the Nursing Informatics Specialty?


I think this specialty is like any other. It depends on the individual and their personal and professional development goals. My clinical background, for example, is in emergency nursing. My passion for emergency nursing is based on my own desire to work in the fast-paced environment of the emergency department and to improve care to patients and families who are entering the acute care health system.


My advice to those considering the nursing informatics specialty would be to seek out advice from colleagues who are already in the profession. In addition, the American Nurses Association formally recognized nursing informatics as a specialty for registered nurses in 1992. There is a well-defined Scope and Standards of Nursing Informatics Practice that may help individuals understand the profession. I would also encourage any nurse interested in an informatics career to consider becoming credentialed through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.


Finally, there are many other great resources available, including formal education through colleges and universities offering individual courses or advanced degree programs in nursing informatics.


Q: Do You Feel Disconnected From the Bedside?


Early in my transition to informatics nursing I maintained clinical practice by working weekends and/or per diem shifts at the bedside. The schedule was grueling, but I felt it was important. I missed the interactions with patients and families, and I was fearful that I would lose skills and my sense of clinical judgment. Although I still practice when I can, I have developed other ways to stay connected with the clinical environment. I maintain that staying connected to clinical practice is extremely important for the healthcare informatics professional.


Q: Where Can Nurses Interested in Becoming an Informatics Nurse Go for More Information?


As mentioned, there are many great resources available to nurses interested in a career as an informatics nurse.


Journals like CIN are an outstanding source of information about the specialty and current trends in informatics practice. In addition, there are a number of nursing informatics professional groups around the country. These groups all provide an opportunity to network and collaborate with other nursing informatics professionals. The Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI) was formed to bring together over 20 distinct nursing informatics membership groups across the US. I would suggest directing individuals to the ANI Web page ( for additional resource information.