Inside USD

Nursing School Offers Health Care Informatics

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

As a senior at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Juvilyn Ebalo couldn’t decide whether to continue on for a master’s degree or join the Navy Officer program in health service. But USD’s new master’s program in health care informatics caught her attention and she moved back to San Diego to enroll. Last spring she became one of its first graduates.

Upon receiving her degree, she was hired by the West Health Institute in San Diego as a medical writer and clinical research intern. “Health services are my passion and I enjoy helping the community in every way possible,” said Ebalo (pictured, below right) who’s currently writing a manual for the institute’s Sense4Baby project to develop a remote monitoring device for high-risk pregnancies.

Her experience is typical of the growing career opportunities available in health care informatics – the process of automating, organizing and improving the transmission of information to support the delivery of health care, said Jonathan Mack, PhD, the program coordinator for USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science’s graduate program in health care informatics.

“Employment opportunities exist across all areas of the health care industry,” added Mack (pictured, above left with graduate Judy Quilligan), who is also director of Clinical Research and Development for West  Health. “They include roles as diverse as data management, device development, installation and management of electronic medical record systems to name a few. USD graduates are now employed in such roles as medical writers, data management specialists, and clinical informatists.”

The field is popular because it “allows individuals with diverse backgrounds including non-clinicians to seek roles that span both clinical and technology-information systems,” he said. “There is never a dull moment in health care as these roles continue to evolve and present new growth opportunities for well-prepared individuals.”

According to Salary.com, the national median salary for a clinical informatics coordinator is $73,144 and $97,750 for a health information services director.

Health care informatics is also a key component of the Affordable Care Act, Mack said. “Health care systems, agencies and companies need individuals to manage and interpret clinical data, adapt technology to ensure the smooth integration of data between organizations and devise new ways to improve care delivery through the use of data and technology.”

Judy Quilligan, a graduate of the master of science of nursing in health care informatics program, said the program “opened up many new doors” for her. As a director of nursing for an adult day care center, she was frustrated by the inefficiencies in the computer system and daily workflow that prevented continuity of care for geriatric clients.

Now as a consultant clinical research coordinator at West Health, she is recruiting clients who might want to take part in a care coordination program, promoting the collection of accurate data into a data base and managing the research documentation for the study. “I hope to one day develop a new model of efficient and affordable care for seniors that is available on a daily basis,” she said.

USD’s pilot program in informatics began in 2011 and this spring the Board of Trustees voted to make it permanent. Since its inception, there have been nine graduates – six  in the master of science in nursing in health care informatics and three in the master of science in health care informatics.

Through USD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Education, there is also a certificate program in informatics in health care open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a variety of fields. Fourteen students have enrolled in the program and six students liked the field so much they chose to transfer to the master’s program.

A limited number of openings are available for students to enroll in both the master’s and certificate programs for the  fall semester. For more information on all the programs go to www.sandiego.edu/nursing/programs/informatics or call (619) 260-4548.

– Liz Harman

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