Like many nurses now working in health informatics, fortuitous circumstances set Kathleen Mazza on a new nursing career path. As an RN and nursing director for a large home care organization, her background was largely based in clinical care.
“My entry into clinical informatics was largely accidental, which is something I have heard from many clinical informaticists who entered the field more than a few years ago,” she explained.
Mazza’s organization was introducing laptops for electronic note taking and order entry when the possibility arose. Several months into the project, company leadership decided a single IT point person made more sense than sharing implementation responsibility among numerous directors.
“They decided to hire someone for that role,” she explained. “It was at that point I realized that I enjoyed that project more than my director role and I sought the position.”
Mazza found she enjoyed working with end users to create the new workflow and redesign company processes. She also discovered she enjoyed helping with employee training and even liked the “hand-holding through the often painful transition from paper to EHR,” she said. “The reward of seeing improved information sharing between clinicians and the efficiencies gained for the organization” made the process worthwhile.
To facilitate the transition, Mazza earned an MBA. She found the advanced degree helped her to “better understand the organizational planning workflow analysis components” of the new role. She also discovered the financial courses helped her to better understand “the changing reimbursement structures that are driving so much of the investment in healthcare informatics.”
Though Mazza says she always felt respected for her clinical knowledge as an RN, “I do feel that I have gained greater credibility with the financial team because I have the advanced degree.”
Earning the advanced degree wasn’t easy, Mazza said, but it has opened doors and sparked new goals for the driven professional.
“The most rewarding part of an advanced degree for me was realizing that I never will be done learning,” she said. “Since I completed that degree, I have pursued certificate programs, read books on unfamiliar topics, even taken a class in Chinese. My advanced degree reinforced my own natural curiosity in things and show me that I will be a lifelong learner.”
Mazza is pursuing a doctorate degree with an eye toward teaching down the road.
For those considering a similar path into health informatics, Mazza offers some advice:
“Embrace change,” she said. “If you like a job that is very well-defined and structured then you may be uncomfortable in this field. My job changes from day-to-day, and sometimes more often than that.”
As for those who have already set a course for change, she recommends finding mentors, networking and not being afraid to ask questions of those already in the field to find out what worked for them and what didn’t.
“Your enthusiasm and curiosity will open more doors than you might imagine. It’s an exciting time in the field,” Mazza said.
Hear from USF Health student Deanna Powell on the benefits on enhancing her IT career through an education in health informatics.