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Roy L. Simpson

Chief Nurse Executives Need

Contemporary Informatics
Using the Informatics Organizing
Research Model (Effken, 2003) to
add context to the information
gleaned from ethnographic interviews of seven chief nurse executives (CNEs) currently leading integrated delivery systems, the author
concluded nurse executives can no
longer depend exclusively on
American Organization of Nurse
Executives (AONE) competencies
as they outsource their responsibility for information technology knowledge to nurse informaticians, chief
information officers, and physicians.
Although AONE sets out a specific
list of recommended information
technology competencies for system CNEs, innovative nursing practice demands a more strategic,
broader level of knowledge.
This broader competency centers
on the reality of CNEs being
charged with creating and implementing a patient-centered vision
that drives health care organizations investment in technology.
A new study identifies and validates
the gaps between selected CNEs
self-identified informatics competencies and those set out by AONE
(Simpson, 2012).


FAAN, is Vice President, Nursing, Cerner
Corporation, Kansas City, MO.


and Corcoran (1989) defines nursing informatics
as the combination of
computer science, information
science and nursing science designed to assist in the management and processing of nursing
data, information and knowledge
to support the practice of nursing
and the delivery of nursing care
(para. 1). The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE,
2011) sets competencies related to
information technology. These
competencies range from the use
of email, office productivity software, and business analytics tools
to demonstrating an awareness of
societal and technological trends,
issues, and new developments as
they relate to nursing.
The convergence of four environmental factors is setting the
stage for a more rapid deployment
of clinical information systems:
The financial incentives associated with the meaningful
use of technology as outlined
in the American Reinvestment
and Recovery Act of 2009.
Technology-based innovations
such as cloud computing and
social media.
Widespread adoption of sophisticated analytical tools for

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executive decision making.

The inability of most chief
nurse executives (CNEs) to effectively champion nursings
technology-related needs in
the physician-led and dominated technology evaluation
The unparalleled complexity
of patient care makes nursing
completely dependent on the
instantaneous availability of information to fuel the iterative nature
of decision making central to
patient care. In patient care, it is
information technology that amasses data and turns it into information and, ultimately, the knowledge that advances nursing and
patient care (Simpson, 2012).
Not only are technology evaluations and their related decisions
organizationally transformative,
their impact can be felt for decades.
The life cycle of every technology
investment spans seven distinct
phases, from planning to procurement to deployment to management
to support and disposition, only to
cycle back to planning. With an
ever-present obsolescence engaging at any step in the process creating change, this ever-cycling life
cycle continues. In addition, the
impact of technologys planned
obsolescence cannot be overlooked


Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

when nurse executives make information technology (IT)-related
decisions (The Economist, 2009).
Planned obsolescence, a business
strategy embraced by technology
providers worldwide, requires that
designers engineer obsolescence
into their products (The Economist,
2009). Technology providers wholeheartedly embrace the concept to
ensure market demand, and its
associated revenue streams, will be
timed to occur as current products
are phased out or sunseted (The
Economist, 2009). That cycling
back makes each and every health
care facility in a near-constant
process of technology selection,
evaluation, deployment, and replacement knowing obsolescence
can trump at any time the processes. This practicality differentiates
Simpsons model from Effkens
While the life cycle looks simple enough, its overlay with content, outcomes, nursing informatics intervention, and client factors
makes for a complexity not seen in
other health care executive decision making. These decisions form
inside a context that includes cultural, economic, social, and physical requirements. Adding an outcome orientation to the decision
allows cost, quality, safety, and
satisfaction layers to the discussion. The influence brought to
bear by nursing informatics layers
the decision again as content
structure and information flow
considerations impact the technology under consideration. Finally, the client factor overlays the
decision with considerations pertinent to client or discipline behaviors and characteristics. This
decision-making process mirrors
the one described in the Informatics Research Organizing Model (Effken, 2003).
The critical decisions required
to organize and prioritize patient
care against a complex backdrop
of quality and patient safety issues
hinges on the use of a wide range
of advanced technologies optimized for nursing. CNEs respon-


sibility to evaluate, select, and

deploy these advanced technologies mandates either a nursingcentric deep knowledge of technology personally or access to that
knowledge via a direct reporting
structure. For CNEs without personal knowledge of technology
considerations, access to an individual with the knowledge and
the criticality of that knowledge to
advance the practice of nursing
underscores the need for a directreporting relationship with the
technology-infused individual.
Having a nurse informaticist on
staff, even in a direct-reporting
relationship, while a great help to
the CNE, does not remove from
the CNE the responsibility for
being able to converse, debate,
and champion specific technologies and clinical information systems personally. Only that level of
knowledge can advance the requirements and needs of patient
care at the executive table when
technology decisions are made.
Two types of IT expertise
remain critical to CNEs as they
evaluate and select clinical information systems: process mapping,
or discovering how the actual
steps of nursing practice unfold
during patient care; and workflow
design, the mechanical arrangement of information, forms, and
triggers to capture and document
nursing practice. However mechanical the process of creating and
deploying workflows, they cannot
be created by engineers and technologists who lack the hands-on
experience of delivering patient
care at the bedside. Vendor-resident engineers lack the site-specific and nursing practice-specific
knowledge required to add the
context of the lived experience to
the workflow creation process.
While evidence in standardization
of processes and practices is universal in application goal, what it
is not is nursing site specific,
requiring some modifications if
intended to achieve outcomes of
efficiencies for software acceptance by end users.

In this study, the lack of standardization of nursing processes,

procedures, and operations greatly
complicated CNEs health information technology (HIT)-related
decision making, especially in
patient care operations with a
high degree of automation. This
increasingly complex patient care
environment complicates a specific and central HIT-related responsibility that falls to the CNE: the
design and implementation of
overarching nursing workflows.
While some aspects of patient care
remain resistant to standardization, the vast majority of these
processes can be architected into
workflows in much the same way
that engineering has codified its
processes and procedures. This
engineering process cries out for
the knowledge that only CNEs and
nurse informaticists can provide
as seen in the Informatics Research Organizing Model by
Effken. The criticality of these two
elements and their foundational
aspects make process mapping
and workflow design knowledge
essential to CNEs evaluation and
selection of clinical information
systems (Simpson, 2012).

Study Purpose
The purpose of this study was
to identify and validate the gaps
existing between selected CNEs
self-ascribed lived experience information technology competencies and those laid out by AONE.
Technology competencies are not
just a part of CNEs responsibilities; this understanding and its
related skills are critical to CNEs
institutional and organizational
leadership. While a thorough understanding of technologys impact on patient care remains the
responsibility of nurse informaticians, CNEs will need to possess a
broad, working knowledge of IT to
safeguard patient care outcomes.
The nurse informaticians role is
to carry the vision of the CNE and
nursing leadership team forward
to application through technological innovations. Given the critical

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Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

nature of nursing input to the purchase, design, and utilization of systems, baseline information about
needed nurse executive competencies could inform educators and
professional organizations about
the needs for nurse executive education in the IT and nursing informatics arena (Cerner, 2010). CNEs
may need more sophisticated
technology-related competencies
and expertise if they are to harness
the power of computing to demonstrate the quality and financialrelated advantages that nursing
brings to patient care.

Before interviewing the CNEs
participating in this study, the
author submitted an application
for the conduct of research using
human subjects, which was approved by the American Sentinel
University Institutional Review
The studys sample population
was limited to members of the
Health Management Academy
(HMA), which includes senior
executives working at Americas
leading integrated delivery systems
(IDSs). No eligible CNE from an IDS
using HIT from Cerner Corporation
was included in the research.
A Confidentiality Agreement,
which was signed by each informant prior to the interview, stipulated the coded data would not be
released to anyone and the identity of the informants would not be
To protect the informants privacy, the MP3 files of each interview were associated with an
alpha-numeric code. This code
traveled with the digital file when
it was sent to a professional service for transcription.
To better understand CNEs
roles in the lived experience of
this complex decision making, the
investigator conducted ethnographic interviews of seven CNE members of the HMA. Membership in
the academy reflects the CNEs
affiliation with the countrys leading health systems and corpora-

tions. According to HMA (2012),

membership includes executives
from approximately 90 health systems that account for 55% of the
hospital net patient revenue in the
country, as well as more than 60
leading health care corporations.
The selected CNEs professional
experience spanned 40 hospitals
in integrated health delivery networks with a total of 8,645 beds
located in seven states with an
aggregate employee population of
Health Management Academy
members gain their industry-recognized status not solely from
their own body of work, but from
the reputation of the IDSs for
which they work as well. The
combination of HMAs executivelevel contributions to the health
care industry and their employers
reputations as bastions of best
practices well qualified them for
their role as CNE informants. Each
of the member IDSs functioned as
a network of health care institutions, practices, and organizations
to provide or arrange to provide a
coordinated continuum of services to a defined population. Each
IDS agreed to be held clinically
and financially accountable for
the clinical outcomes and health
status of the population served.
IDSs encompass a community
and/or tertiary hospital, home
health care and hospice services,
primary and specialty outpatient
care and surgery, social services,
rehabilitation, preventive care,
health education and financing,
and usually using a form of managed care (Washington State Hospital Association, 2012).
An ethnographic approach to
CNE interviewing used iterative
questioning based on the tacit
information and inferences gleaned from the early interviews to
inform the later conversations,
making the cumulative findings
richer and more insightful than
knowledge gained from consistently asking a standard set of
questions to all CNE informants
(Spradley, 1979).

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As each interview was conducted, the author reviewed the

data collected from that interview
independent of the previously
gathered information. Once that
stand-alone analysis was complete, information gleaned from
each interview was compared to
the data stemming from previous
informant interviews. Common
and disparate themes were captured for analysis as well.

Research Reveals Common,

Disparate Themes
This research set out to answer a single pivotal question:
What is the state of CNEs HITrelated decision making compared
to the competencies outlined in
AONEs recommended information technology competencies?
A key part of analyzing the
data from informant interviews
centered on identifying cultural
themes, which defined any principle recurrent in a number of
domains, tacit or explicit (Spradley,
1979). These themes pinpointed
relationships among subsystems
of cultural meaning (Spradley,
1979). Data were scored, keywords were identified and trended, and topics and insights were
recorded, with each element being
used to reshape the subsequent
informant interview questions as
themes emerged. For example,
informants interviewed early in
the research might refer to a computer physician, while informants speaking in later interviews
might refer to the same type of
individual as a chief medical information officer. If the term
evolved in informant sessions, the
term computer nurse was replaced with nurse informatician
in later interviews.
Terminology related to nurses
represented a single area of evolution but other subject areas were
likely to shift as well. For example, early interviews probing
nurse executives data use yielded
comments relative to data analysis. As the interview process progressed, mentions of the term


Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

data analysis dwindled with
more informant comments focusing on the use of statistical data
mining and dashboards, an
advanced and more complex form
of data analysis.
During the CNEs interviews,
an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of ruled
paper was divided into two
columns. The first column consumed the left one-third of the
area with the remaining twothirds forming a second column.
Handwritten notes taken during
the interviews filled the second
column, leaving the left-hand column open for later analysis. These
handwritten notes served as a
backup resource to the electronic
recordings made of each CNE
After each interview, the notes
were read and the conversation
recalled in terms of a keyword
search. As keywords emerged
from the conversation, themes
came into view. Building on the
iterative nature of ethnographic
interviewing technique, each previous interviews keywords and
themes were used to enrich subsequent interviews.
Once all seven interviews
were completed, each interview
was read completely to scan for
content. A second reading focused
on context. A third reading pinpointed keywords and emerging
themes, which were captured on
sticky notes. The use of repositionable notes proved to be a key
element of the analysis process as
the review continued over several
days. Keywords and trends naturally led to trends and patterns of
To conclude the analysis, an
exercise that pinpointed evidence
of each AONE-recommended information technology was conducted. This analysis showed the CNEs
demonstrated competencies in
each required area with one exception. As a group, the CNEs did not
demonstrate an awareness of societal and technological trends, issues,
and new developments as they
relate to nursing (AONE, 2011).


The Data
Using keywords and exemplars to expand on CNEs themes
gave context to the data. Themes
and associated keywords are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. Themes
aligned with the keywords and
exemplar quotes from the seven
interviews are identified in Table 2.

Interview data. During analysis
of the CNE interviews, five dominant and often interwoven themes
emerged: technology knowledge,
collaboration, HIT selection, executive leadership, and standardization.
Each of these themes represented
overarching areas of concern for the
CNEs, who demonstrated competency in each of the AONE-recommended IT competencies with one
exception. That exception centered
on the CNEs lack of awareness
about societal and technology
trends, issues, and new developments as they related to nursing.
Technology knowledge. CNEs
lived experience, as expressed
through a series of seven ethnographic interviews, validated the
opinion voiced in the literature
that nurse executives lack the
foundational knowledge of technology needed to understand,
appreciate, and leverage rapidly
advancing technically based capabilities (Ball et al., 2010). The interviews indicated CNEs have
chosen to bypass amassing deep
technology knowledge, instead
relying on emotional intelligence
and dependencies on nurse informaticians and chief information
officers (CIOs), to exert nursings
influence into HIT decision making. CNEs lived experience aligned with the trend for nurse
leaders to look to nurse informaticians and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) to provide the deep
technology knowledge they lack
(Westra & Delaney, 2008). Statements such as, I depend on my
nurse informatician to give me the
information flagged this dependence.

CNEs said they depended on

HIT vendors for their technology
education, which gave pause to
understanding the various tradeoffs vendors make in the system
design. Although the research did
not ask the question directly, it
can be inferred from the CNEs
responses that their limited technology knowledge renders them
unable to champion the collection, analysis, and trending of
nursing data in a chief medical
officer (CMO)-dominated HIT discussion.
Is it possible the CNEs share
an overarching lack of ownership
and urgency around the acquisition of technology knowledge?
Despite their heavy dependence
on HIT vendors for their baseline
technology knowledge, only one
CNE expressed the need to make
technology learning a priority. The
CNEs agreed HIT was a priority
but not a top priority. They
viewed HIT as a tool for nurses in
their daily work and as a dashboard for management not a
strategic decision-support tool for
their own use.
Collaboration. HIT-related collaboration specific to system evaluation and selection posed a
series of challenges for the CNEs.
Collectively, they expressed a prevailing scenario in which their
opinions are not heard and they
are unable to counter physician
viewpoints in CMO-driven decision making about HIT.
Leadership. CNEs pointed out
that when health care organizations employ CIOs from industries
outside the health care environment, a particular challenge arises. The CIOs lack of clinical
expertise required the CNE and
the CMO to tightly align to lead
executive decision making toward
improving patient care rather than
opting for technology-based operational efficiency.
HIT selection. Collaboration
again entered into the CNEs interviews when they spoke about
implementing and utilizing the
selected HIT systems. The logis-

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Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

Table 1.
Trending of Themes from CNEs Interviews
Technology knowledge



Executive leadership
Health information
technology selection






Technology vision




of Mention



Chief nursing
information officer

Chief information officer




Nursing vision

Driving improvement

Working with the

board of directors

Technology leadership

Technology priorities

Executive decision making

Technology innovation

Return on investment



Keys to success

tics and expense involved in staff

education, a cost which is often
overlooked when calculating total
cost of ownership, comes into
play several times during technology life cycles: during a systems
initial implementation, as staff
turnover occurs, and at regular
intervals as system upgrades are
made. Each of these intervals
demanded the CNEs use their
executive leadership positions to
collaborate across cross-departmental and cross-operational lines
especially with CMOs and CIOs.
The CNEs said their lack of deep

technology knowledge often hampered effective collaboration.

Standardization. The lack of
standardization of nursing processes, procedures, and operations
greatly complicated the CNEs
HIT-related decision making, especially in patient care operations
with a high degree of automation.
This increasingly complex patient
care environment complicates a
specific and central HIT-related
responsibility that falls to the CNE:
the design and implementation of
overarching nursing workflows.
While some aspects of patient care

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remain resistant to standardization, the vast majority of these

processes can be architected into
workflows in much the same way
that engineering has codified its
processes and procedures.
Workflow alone is a strategic
key only if applied from the view
and vision of the nursing practice.
One informant said that to succeed in this role you better have
implemented a system before.
Another informant mentioned the
care continuum as a prerequisite
to understanding of workflow and
role as system CNE.


Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

Table 2.
Themes and Associated Keywords from CNEs Interviews


Exemplar Quotes

Technology vision Vision, egalitarian

[The CNE]needs the acumen and the expertise to be an egalitarian partner with
the physician and the medical staff.


There is simply not a vehicle here where people are schooled [in technology] within
the organization.

schooling, current
knowledge, staff
physician leader,
dependence on
others, competency

I pulled the nursing team together and we trained 10,500 people. It cost more than
there is more focus around understanding from a chief nursing officers
perspective what it takes to deliver care to patients, what the organizations and
nursings plans are for changing that care delivery and then understanding the points
at which technology helps to assist in that process and facilitate the care.
Im not very technically competent. As I look at the things I would have done
differently, I would have recognized that I needed to be smarter [about technology]

HIT selection


Chief medical
information officer

They strategize with me and we get what we need into the strategic plan but the
overarching power comes from the CMIO and what the doctors want.

Bad processes,

One of the big challenges is that we have really bad processes within organizations.
We think implementation of a technology will fix a bad process.

[I am] the person most influential in impacting what our strategic future is using
technology for care, and for nurse and patient safety.

As a CNE, one of my struggles has been is that were going to not just adopt
[technology]. I find I have to insert myself into groups who think they understand
what that process or system might need to look like when they really dont
understand it.

Chief nursing
information officer

We were able to develop nursing informatics roles in this organization and develop
a career ladder that never existed. It wouldnt have existed if we hadnt partnered to
be to that

Chief information
officer (CIO)

Chief information
officer change

We recently changed the CIO. [The] prior CIO was someone who centrally believed
he could make all the decisionsand he partnered with no one.


Common goals

The way the work gets done is we have an agreed upon set of structures and
processes that are inclusive of nursing and ancillary and physician leaders in the
organization. We have those discussions that we need to have around our common
goal which is caring for patients.


knowledge base,

You have to be forceful, assertive, and sometimes really aggressive.


Data-driven, payers

You have to be data-driven. You have to be able to turn the data into information.

Nursing vision

Quality indicators,
quality improvement, engagement

[My] vision of nursing [is to be able to] trace back quality indicators [to show] how
the nurses and the assistant personnel either helped or didnt help in the delivery of
that care.
[The] CNE engages end users at all levels to help understand the care and
processes that need to be delivered, in setting that vision for what they need and
then [accounting for] outside forces that end users may not truly understand. You
take the information from those who pay us and who set other expectationsand
then transfuse that into your organization by sharing that knowledge.
continued on next page


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Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

Table 2. (continued)
Themes and Associated Keywords from CNEs Interviews


Exemplar Quotes


rollout, evaluation

When I was at a freestanding hospital, I was very involved in the selection process.



As a chief quality officer, I was very inquisitive about how to get data out of the
system and use it to drive improvement.


Data analysis,
physiciandominated, strategic
plan, CIO, strategic
plan, change

chief patient safety officer who has become very involved in analyzing the work
thats going on and how it might contribute to errors. He measures adverse events
related to anything in the electronic health record.

Youve got to do more build. Youve got to revise based on end users
feedbackwe are not ready to implement this.
I, myself, do not spend time evaluating. I depend completely on my staffto make

Working with the Rollout

board of directors

We have a department of qualitative sciencesthat helps us quantify issues. We

have an executive steering team of electronic health records, and we have an
information services governments council. He and I both sit on these councils.
It really took standing up to the board membersand saying, Its [the system] not
ready. We will have potential patient safety issues if we roll this out.
Part of the dilemma has been in a multi-hospital system [is around] who is really
making the [rollout] decision.



They [multiple hospitals in the IDS] all want something differentThe standards
and processes have to be the same.


learning, teaching,

Weve had two major developments related to nursing and patient care, and the
creation of the patient engagement and education record that reflects the
multidisciplinary aspects oflearning across the continuum. We led the [predevelopment] conversations


Triage, shared
priorities, continuum
of care, risk

We are getting increasingly interested in risk stratification. If you have X number of

changes in your orders in a shift or in an hour, then we see something is going
wrongIf you dont have an identified discharge date, were not planning to get you
to the next point of disposition

decision making

lobbying, emotional

I would want to make sure that [the CNE candidate] had a very high score in terms
of emotional intelligence. [That would be] critical in a place like this.



Id like to go back to engineering school because I think its a gap in my knowledge

as a nurse executive


Integrity, executive
secession, informal
dialogue, visibility

My nurse informatician and I have mutual integrity. I completely trust that what the
people are reporting to me is accurate.

Keys to success


[CNEs] may have the knowledge and be superbbut where they fail is in creating
relationships that are effectivewhether its [with] financeorITor the person in
charge of facilities.


Leading, informatics Much of the work that Ive been involved in [is] leadingaround standardization of
practice and elimination of variation. [We are] pushing toward role clarity and
[seeing] how that gets expressed through the use of technology.
continued on next page

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Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

Table 2. (continued)
Themes and Associated Keywords from CNEs Interviews


Exemplar Quotes

Return on
investment (ROI)

Cost of ownership,
achieving ROI

The executive group and the executive steering group of informatics look at
ROIThat discussion happens both at the steering committee level and the senior
executive level.


Alignment, social
media, listening,

Our metrics are showing that at the VP, AVP, and director levels, we have very good
alignment in terms of the staff understanding the strategic direction and the purpose
behind it. But we have a drastic falloff at the supervisor and below level.
Were using social media [to communicate] more effectively with our employees.
Were now segmenting and tailoring our message, so that some of our
communication [about nursing and technology] can be global.


Drowning, process
focus, outcome

Gap Analysis
A gap analysis of the CNEs
HIT-related competencies and
AONEs recommended IT competencies were conducted. The majority of CNEs self-described their
technology competencies as aligned with the AONE-recommended competencies. Six of the seven
CNEs lacked a critically important
recommended competency: being
able to demonstrate awareness of
societal and technological trends,
issues, and developments as they
relate to nursing. This overarching
deficiency, when coupled with
CNEs lack of historical technology
knowledge, prevented CNEs from
fully engaging in HIT-related decision making. Table 3 shows the
CNEs alignment with AONEs recommended information technology competencies.

Key Findings
The CNEs pointed out two
ways they are marginalized in the
evaluation and selection of clinical information systems. First, the
CNEs found their review responsibilities limited to the functional
level; that is, looking at the systems features, rather than their
ability to advance nursing practice. Second, the CNEs explained
that a CMO-led physician contingent guided IT decision making,


nurses want to measure process rather than outcome. Getting that change in
view pushed through the entire organization is critical. Process measures are great
but youve really got to focus on outcomes and pushing that down to the unit level.

relegating CNEs to a specifier/

recommender role. CNEs found
themselves limited in their ability
to advocate effectively for technology needed to support nursing
practice during the evaluation and
selection of clinical information
systems. As a result, there is no
one at the executive decisionmaking table to advocate for the
needs of patient care during allimportant technology discussions
(Simpson, 2012).
Another point emerging for
CNEs is to use CNSs to stay
abreast of current research and
technology capabilities to support
CNE strategy for amassing technology knowledge in specific
fields of practice. This delegation
of HIT expertise significantly
expands the traditional role of the
CNS, which is to be competent in
the practice and the technologies
that support the domain of the
individual practice (Simpson &
Somers, 1991). For example, a cardiac CNS would also be responsible for the knowledge of EKG
monitors, echo, and other cardiac
devices used in conjunction with
cardiac care. The literature does
not describe such attributes
attached to the CNS nor does the
American Nurses Association.
However, this expectation, which
could direct the advancing role of
the CNS, could be the salvation of

CNSs future as well because it

clearly differentiates their practice
from that of the nurse practitioner.
No one will know the machinespecific domain knowledge better
than the CNS who is focused and
mastered in the domain specific to
that patient condition.

Impact of Social Media

Although the CNEs demonstrated knowledge of technologyfueled innovation in nursing practice, two substantial gaps exist
between the CNEs knowledge and
AONEs stated competency. The
first gap pertains to CNEs awareness of societal and technological
trends, issues, and new developments as they relate to nursing, a
stated AONE competency. The
second disconnect occurs between CNEs knowledge and the
AONE competency requiring proficient awareness of legal and ethical issues related to client data,
information, and confidentiality.
Nurses use of social media lies at
the intersection of both these gaps.
In the lived experience, for
example, nurses routinely use
social media to communicate
nurse to nurse, nurse to patient,
and nurse to patient family, nurse
to physician, nurse to interdisciplinary team, etc. (Black, Light,
Paradise Black, & Thompson,
2013). It is troubling that this per-

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Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

Table 3.
CNEs Alignment with AONEs Recommended Technology Competencies


Demonstrate basic competency in email, common word processing,

spreadsheet and Internet programs.

Recognize the relevance of nursing data for improving practice.

Recognize the limitations of computer applications.

Use telecommunications devices.

Utilize hospital database management, decision support, and expert

systems programs to access information and analyze data from
disparate sources for use in planning patient care processes and

Participate in change management processes and utility analysis.

Participate in the evaluation of information in practice settings.

Evaluate and revise patient care processes and systems.

Use computerized management systems to record administrative data

(billing data, quality assurance data, workload data, etc.).

Use applications for structured data entry (classification systems,

acuity level, etc.).

Recognize the utility of nursing involvement in planning, design,

choice, and implementation of information systems in the practice

Demonstrate awareness of societal and technological trends, issues,

and developments as they relate to nursing.

Demonstrate proficient awareness of legal and ethical issues related

to client data, information, and confidentiality.

Read and interpret benchmarking, financial, and occupancy data.

vasive communication violates

The Health Insurance Portability
and Accountability Act regulations (U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 1996) and
happens in the majority of facilities, even where CNEs have
banned social media. Recently,
researchers from the University of
Florida examined 15 days worth
of anonymous network utilization
records for 68 workstations located in the emergency department
(ED) of an academic medical center, comparing data from the ED
workstations to work index data
from the hospitals information
systems. Throughout the 15-day
study period, health care workers
spent 72.5 hours browsing Facebook, visiting the social networking site 9,369 times, and spending

12 minutes per hour on the site.

The amount of time spent on
Facebook, while significant, was
overshadowed by a second research finding: the time spent on
Facebook actually increased as
patient volume in the ED rose. As
a result, the researchers recommended future studies look at the
impact of using Facebook in break
rooms only and other non-work
parts of the hospital (Narsi, 2013).
This real-life example shows
CNEs cannot claim naivet when it
comes to the use of social media in
their facilities. In this example, the
lived experience does not support
CNEs beliefs that they have been
successful in protecting the confidentiality of vitally important
health information. Policies that
eliminate or restrict the use of

NURSING ECONOMIC$/November-December 2013/Vol. 31/No. 6

social media in their facilities must

be equitable for compliance. Of
course, this creates another set of
addressed. Plus it speaks to the definition and knowledge of cloud
computing which lies at the core
of confidentiality and security
being that information on devices
used could possibly be uploaded to
the cloud. Unbeknown to the user
or CNE, these actions have the
potential to breach confidence and
privacy. If the knowledge of cloud
were present, each informant
would have equitably known information was uploaded from devices
and security breached.
This research concluded that
while the CNEs applied the majority of AONE-recommended information technology competencies


Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

to their executive decision making,
most did not demonstrate an
awareness of societal and technological trends, issues, and new
developments as they relate to
nursing. Considering the CNEs
cited technology knowledge, or
more precisely, a lack of technology knowledge, as their top concern,
it was particularly disconcerting to
see they did not demonstrate an
awareness of technology direction
and trends related to nursing.
AONEs list of IT competencies offered CNEs a point from
which to begin amassing baseline
technology knowledge. For example, the competencies, such as
being able to use email, word processing, spreadsheet and Internetbased programs, demonstrate only
baseline knowledge. Baseline competencies do not indicate the level
of knowledge and technical sophistication the CNEs needed to
evaluate, select, deploy, and utilize evidence-based HIT in system
CNE roles of IDSs.
The AONE baseline competencies do not address key aspects
of executive decision making relative to HIT, such as science-based
workflow, evidence-based architecture, and utility corporations.
The complexity of modern nursing
care requires a much deeper understanding of technology capabilities
and options if CNEs are to actively
participate and lead or influence
executive-level decisions related
to the evaluation, selection,
deployment, and utilization of HIT
in IDSs (, 2011). The
research did not attempt to gauge
the nursing informatics expertise
of nurses outside the CNE ranks.
Nor did the research examine
nurse informaticists knowledge of
CNEs employed in settings other
than multihospital network IDSs.
The study did not address the frequency or appropriateness of
CNEs decisions to delegate decision making, responsibility, and/or
accountability to the integrated delivery systems IT organization.
Each of the CNEs participating
in the research demonstrated com-


petency in and applied the majority of the AONE capabilities to their

IT-related decision making. However, those competencies corresponded to older, more established
types of technology, such as email,
office productivity software, and
business analysis tools. The gaps in
CNEs technology-related knowledge, as identified via ethnographic interviews, pertained to the
AONE competencies requiring: (a)
an awareness of societal and technological trends, issues, and new
developments as they relate to
nursing; and (b) proficient awareness of the legal and ethical issues
related to client data, information,
and confidentiality. It is imperative
CNEs keep their technology-related
competencies current to be able to
anticipate how new technologies,
such as social media, can be used
to strengthen patient care and to
evaluate if these same technologies
hold any potential for harm to

Recommendations for Future

Further research is needed to
better understand how CNEs make
decisions about the evaluation,
selection, deployment, and utilization of HIT across the continuum of patient care settings. Emotional intelligence ranks high on
the scale for skills used today in
the life cycle of HIT, but that will
not suffice for knowledge in ability to advocate for patient care. For
example, hospitals and health
care organizations not affiliated
with an IDS were omitted from
this research as were for-profit
hospitals. It would be interesting
to see if the same issues that affect
HIT-related decision making in
IDSs have relevance in for-profit
institutions, smaller health care
facilities, and stand-alone hospitals. Additionally, follow-up research could examine the role
structured committees of corporate-based CNEs play in technology education and life cycle. This
could be the differentiating competency from operational site-spe-

cific CNEs and clarifying the role

of the corporate CNE of IDSs.
Additionally, studies centering on
CNEs contribution to the automation of key nursing processes, such
as the development of nursing science-based workflows, would be
useful. Another pressing need revolves around the dissemination
of new knowledge in computer
science, information science, and
nursing science to CNEs at health
care organizations of all sizes.
Given the exhaustive patient
care and operational requirements
placed on the system-wide CNE,
one can debate the value of managing skill sets versus becoming a
technical content expert. Thanks
to the powerful effect of Moores
law on technologies of all types,
nursing informatics quickly becomes a core competency for CNEs
in organizations of all sizes. As the
CNE role expands to take on more
organizational and financial responsibility for patient outcomes,
HIT becomes a key clinical and
operational enabler of quality patient care across all settings. As
such, technology competencies
specific to the CNE role will need
to be studied, not only from a
functional perspective as it is
today, but from a strategic perspective as well. Focusing on how
CNEs leverage HIT to meet their
organizations business goals should
be a research imperative.

Despite the fact that few traditional graduate programs in nursing and business teach these fundamental deep technology-related
competencies, CNEs sit at the
executive table during technology
evaluations and routinely find
themselves ill prepared to debate
with their physician counterparts
the functions of the clinical information systems. Specifically, CNEs
must view these advanced technologies from a strategic and operational perspective that fine-tunes
the systems architectural design,
workflow, and processes for deployment in the patient care envi-

NURSING ECONOMIC$/November-December 2013/Vol. 31/No. 6

Chief Nurse Executives Need Contemporary Informatics Competencies

NEs sit at the executive table during technology
evaluations and routinely find themselves ill
prepared to debate with their physician counterparts
the functions of the clinical information systems.

ronment. Additionally, CNEs need

to go toe to toe in physician-led
technology discussions. Simply
put, CNEs must function as the
voice of patient care in these
debates because there is no one
else at the table who will advocate
for patients. As a result, the largest
user population in the health care
organization nurses find their
requirements falling to a secondary position behind the requirements delineated and championed by physicians.
This research asked a single,
pivotal question: What is the
state of CNEs HIT-related decision making compared to the competencies outlined in AONEs recommended information technology competencies? The answer to
that question was two-fold. CNEs
demonstrated competency in and
applied the majority of the AONE
competencies to their decisionmaking process related to the evaluation, selection, deployment,
and utilization of HIT. However,
the majority of the CNEs did not
demonstrate a competency specific to AONEs call to demonstrate
an awareness of societal and technological trends, issues and new
developments as they relate to
nursing (AONE, 2011, p. 10).
In recognition of the critical
need for CNEs at hospitals of all
sizes to acquire and maintain current knowledge of HIT, it is time
for the profession to enlist the
help of academic leaders and regulators in the effort to build a
learning infrastructure capable of
building a wide and deep HIT
competency for CNEs in America.

Credentialing organizations
and accreditation agencies, such
as AONE Certification Center,
National League for Nursing
Accrediting Commission, American Nurses Credentialing Center,
and the Commission on Collegiate
Nursing Education, would be well
served to crystallize educational
content to address CNEs lack of
technology knowledge in curricula
and certification. No longer can
nurse executives at the highest levels depend exclusively on AONE
competencies as they outsource
their responsibility for information
technology knowledge to nurse
informaticists, chief information
officers, and physicians. To do so
would be to relegate the legions of
nurses they lead to a subservient
position in the value chain of
health care providers, marginalizing the profession. $
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