Career advice

Why data and informatics are words to get excited about

Helping set standards for how information is used gives nurses a say in improving practice

Helping set standards for how information is used gives nurses a say in improving practice


Picture: iStock

Nursing staff are the largest group of healthcare professionals sharing information about patients, yet often they are reluctant to help create the standards unpinning its use. 

‘We struggle to get enough nursing involvement in our work,’ says Annette Gilmore, who joined the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) in 2014, as its work was just getting underway. ‘We need more nurses and midwives.’ 

In practice, the PRSB develops a variety of standards for health and social care records, ensuring the right information is recorded correctly and can be accessed easily.

Collaboration across disciplines

Areas covered include hospital referral letters, handovers and discharge summaries. The long-term goal is to share information just once, with records then available in every care setting – including people’s homes – improving patient safety and quality of care.

Among the key attractions of joining the organisation for Ms Gilmore was the opportunity to collaborate with healthcare professionals across all disciplines. ‘We’re working for something we really believe in, that’s very important in healthcare,’ she says. ‘The PRSB is an active and exciting organisation that’s trying to ensure better and safer care for patients.’

‘Informatics has always been a natural part of everyday nursing. It’s thinking about how you can make the best use of the information that has been collected to improve the quality of patient care’

After qualifying as a nurse in Ireland in 1980, then doing her midwifery course, Ms Gilmore moved to the UK in 1985 and worked in acute care, including becoming a haematology nurse specialist.

After gaining an economics degree, she joined Kings College London’s nursing research unit, eventually helping to develop a disease registry for patient care and research purposes.

‘Often clinicians aren’t involved in what’s being gathered and measured,’ says Ms Gilmore, who is currently a clinical adviser and project lead at the PRSB. ‘There can be a perception that because it’s data, it’s not relevant to practice.

‘But for me, informatics has always been a natural part of everyday nursing. It’s thinking about how you can make the best use of the information that has been collected to improve the quality of patient care.’

Collecting data that has purpose

Ms Gilmore’s day-to-day role includes scoping projects from their inception and using her clinical and research background to develop a project brief.

‘When staff are trying to implement standards in practice you need someone who has the expertise to understand the nuances of how this will affect nurses working on the frontline’

‘We’re looking at the data collected from both a patient’s and a frontline professional’s perspective, so we can have a real say, advising on what is clinically meaningful and useful for research, monitoring and audit,’ she explains.

‘Having standards is all very well, but when staff are trying to implement them in clinical practice you need someone who has the expertise to understand the nuances of how this will affect nurses working on the frontline.’

Nurses’ input

To that end, the organisation is passionate about encouraging as many nursing staff as possible to become involved with their work. ‘We’re a new organisation and at the moment, people on the ground don’t know enough about what we do,’ says Ms Gilmore.

‘We’re trying to change that by getting across the message that this is really important and relevant for your practice.’ 

Nursing staff can volunteer to complete a survey or be interviewed about their opinions. ‘It’s not a big commitment, but it’s very powerful in the end product,’ says Ms Gilmore.

They can also opt to join expert panels, which delve into the detail of specific projects, looking at the areas that any standard should include, or project boards that usually entail two or three meetings, held virtually.

The PRSB pays expenses and participation may count towards revalidation and annual appraisals, says Ms Gilmore. ‘And it’s great learning,’ she adds. ‘You get as much out of it, or more, than you put in.

‘This is your opportunity to shape the standards that you will eventually be using. Nurses need to realise their involvement really does carry weight.’       


Further information

Getting involved in the Professional Records Standards Body


Lynne Pearce is a health journalist

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