by Dr. Scott Erdley – Senior Editor
Erdley, S. (2012). Kol.umn.fu.tur.e. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 16 (3), Available at http://ojni.org/issues/?p=2015
The time of year does lend itself to the release and promotion of new technologies of hardware and software. To wit: the soon-to-be influx of smartphones (Nokia, Motorola and Samsung to name some) and the subsequent release of Apple’s iPhone5 (the big kahuna). Also coming up is the impending release of a new crop of tablets (the ‘minis’) by Apple and its competitors. As the vendors gear up for the holiday season more items will be on the way. It will be a cutting edge buyer’s delight to stay current with these gadgets and tools.
In conjunction with the technology burst is the ever-present human side of these sorts of events. The amount of human effort and ingenuity to come up with an idea, create the physical item, test, market and then release, is really staggering. I applaud those responsible for all of the previous generations of tools each of us has experienced as well as those responsible, in any way, for the current ‘crop’ of devices. Programmers, innovators, inventors, ergonomic specialists, marketing persons and sales people, among countless others, are all to be applauded for their respective contributions and efforts.
Recognition of the ‘people’ factor, and influence, from a historical perspective, is underway in the NI community. There is an effort by several folks to bring recognition to those folks considered to be ‘founding’ persons of the NI ‘movement’. Currently supported and housed by AMIA the project’s purpose is to “ . . . document and preserve the history of nursing informatics.” Included are documents and persons involved with the early history of nursing informatics. Supported by several organizations (including McKesson, AAN, RWJF – Executive Nurse Fellows, Schools of Nursing at University of Maryland and University of Minnesota among others) the site offers a video library of interviews involving many of the founding ‘persons’ as well as a composite of information related to thematic content drawn from these same interviews. The site is located at http://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics/history-project. Check it out – really cool!
Considering the strong human factor involved with technology (is it a chicken and egg thing?) I would postulate the important piece of this equation is the human factor. The concept has been recognized by others in a variety of ways and means (such as the movie of the same name). Work by Nancy Staggers and others consider the humanness of information technology (how things look to ‘us’, what ‘we’ look for in terms of interface structure, even where to place technology for best advantage of user and environment). The idea is we, as people, are the really important and requisite piece of the puzzle as related to information technology utilization. Without people (see ‘Matrix’) technology is not relevant, not purposeful. The network of people is infinitely more important than the network of machines (see ‘Internet’). It is this recognition we must continue to maintain.
My mentor told me, long ago, to move past the intrigue and glorious fun of technology; to remember the technology is a tool, and nowadays-substantial tool, in the arsenal of healthcare and nursing. It is what we make of it and nothing more. In no way do I want to take away from the ‘fun of it’, though. Information technology has increased in complexity and functionality over time. Some has even reached ubiquity. Nonetheless what we need and how we use ‘it’ remains the key. Nursing informatics is one specialty, among many in healthcare, attempting to use available information tools, and create new ones when needed, to provide a better means of quality patient care.
My suggestion is we do not forget we are the key to providing quality care for patients. The fact technology now plays an important role is just that, a fact. We need to remember who we care for, why we provide care, and how best to provide care to achieve the best quality outcomes. If we do not keep this in mind the future quickly diminishes in potentiality as well as actuality. We are humans and darn proud of it!