Sometimes, the pursuit of a college degree can pay off before you’ve graduated.
Veteran nurse Lauren Tyson is a prime example. The Miami native was ready for a step up in her career, but she didn’t want to take what she calls the “traditional nursing route.”
“I knew that I didn’t want to be the manager of a unit. I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse practitioner, but I always loved technology,” Tyson said, adding that she was attracted to a career “that’s going to help nurses and their workflow every day, to make patient care safer and to make their work life easier.
“Furthermore, I wanted to know that it was very marketable,” Tyson said.
Tyson is satisfying all of her criteria with the online Master of Science in Health Informatics program offered by USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida.
She’s scheduled to graduate in the fall but won’t be job hunting after picking up her degree. That’s because she’s already secured a position and is utilizing what she’s learned at work.
Tyson frequently searched for informatics-related openings on Baptist Health’s website and said that she “got lucky that they had a position open for a nurse who specialized in emergency medicine.” Tyson has experience both as an emergency department nurse and a surgical nurse.
In her new position, “I work on optimizing workflows in the outpatient area and I improve clinical documentation in those areas,” Tyson said.
“We are taking, for example, the ambulatory surgical centers from paper documentation to paperless documentation,” Tyson said. “And we go around in all the outpatient areas, speaking with nurses and the clinical staff to see what changes they would like in the documentation, to see if they have any concerns, and what we can change in the EHR to make their work life better.”
Tyson is able to take what she learns in class and apply it at work.
“We just finished the E-Medicine Business Models class and I used that information that I learned in the class every day, easily,” Tyson said. “I hear the term workflow at least 20 times a day at work.”
With her nursing background, it’s not surprising that Tyson is most enthusiastic about informatics’ potential to improve the work life of nurses and the safety of patients.
“I think that the most exciting thing about informatics is anything that expedites patient care and improves patient safety,” Tyson said, adding “I think that anything we can do to make their (nurses’) work life easier and safer is what excites me. Can we make this documentation better? Can we make patient care safer? Those are the things that excite me the most.”
Tyson’s nursing career made earning her degree online the logical choice.
“I was a night shift ER charge nurse. I wanted flexibility and I needed something that would let me take a test and study on my schedule,” Tyson said.
She looked at a program closer to her home, “but they were requiring students to come every Saturday and I knew that would not work for me,” she said. “I need to be able to study and I work nights, so waking up at 7 a.m. on Saturday is like another person waking up at 3 a.m. and trying to go to school.
“What was also nice about USF is it’s a top-ranked school, and actually not as expensive as a lot of other programs,” Tyson said. “The return on investment was fantastic.”
Tyson describes her experience as a USF Health Online student in glowing terms.
The professors, she said, “were always available to you. They would do office hours once or twice a week and it would be interactive, so it would be like you were in the professor’s office asking questions. I always tell people at work that if they’re looking for a program, USF to me is the best one.”
As for her classmates, “we’re all friends now, even though we’ve never met face-to-face. We text each other every day for support,” Tyson said. “And I think my advisor Doug was outstanding whenever I had an issue,” she added, referring to Doug Maine, associate representative for student services at Bisk, which facilitates USF Health’s online informatics programs.
Tyson is planning to receive her degree in person at the fall graduation ceremony. “I’m the first person in my immediate family to get a master’s degree so I will definitely be there,” she said.
Outside of work and school, Tyson loves cooking. “I’m known among my friends and family as a chef. I’m constantly cooking for them. And I find it to be a huge stress reliever,” Tyson said. “I love to try new recipes and I think I own more pots and pans and kitchen utensils than I do pairs of shoes.”