A pioneer in the field of nursing informatics announced a $1 million bequest to the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) during the School's 21st annual Summer Institute in Nursing Informatics (SINI), a pre-eminent conference that drew about 400 participants. UMSON Professor Nancy Staggers, PhD, RN, FAAN, made the bequest to establish an endowed professorship in nursing informatics. It is only the third gift of $1 million from an alumna in the School's history.
"We are extremely grateful for this extraordinary gift from Dr. Staggers," said Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of UMSON. "By supporting an endowed professorship, her gift will also help strengthen the research efforts for generations of nursing informatics students."
Staggers is a two-time graduate of UMSON, having earned a master's degree in 1985 and a PhD in 1992. She was the School's first doctoral graduate whose degree focused on nursing informatics. "I would like to make a difference going forward," she told a large audience in the UNSOM auditorium on July 20.
"I am happy to be in a position where I can give back to the School because I received such an extraordinary education. It allowed me to be a leader in informatics when folks couldn't spell 'informatics,'" Staggers said.
Her chosen field "integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice," according to the American Nurses Association. At UMSON, graduates in nursing informatics are leaders in the conceptualization, design, and research of computer-based information systems in health care.
Staggers became the first formally trained informatics nurse in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She retired from the military in 1998. When she joined the UMSON faculty in 2010, she became the first full-time faculty member to work remotely. "I'm so used to this [virtual model] from the Army, coordinating people worldwide," Staggers said. "I think this will be the wave of the future."
The School offers an informatics focus at the master's and doctoral levels that can be accessed online. Similarly SINI was webcast, with 57 taking part online. A highlight of SINI is its research component, including peer-reviewed podium presentations and a poster session. Winners in each category were introduced by UMSON Assistant Professor Marisa Wilson, DNSc, MHSc, RN-BC, a co-chair of SINI 2011.
"We strive to make SINI a showcase for the work being done by nurse informaticians who are making major changes to the way health care is delivered to patients, families, and communities. SINI is the pre-eminent vehicle for knowledge in this nursing specialty," Wilson said.
The conference, held July 20-23, drew the nation's top official overseeing health information technology. Farzad Mostashari, MD ScM, the national coordinator, delivered the keynote address, exploring informatics as "a catalyst for health care reform." The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Health IT does not lead directly to improvements in the quality or efficiency of care, but it is the foundation for what does improve quality." These factors include smarter payment that aligns financial incentives with delivery of value, performance feedback monitoring, consumer engagement, and redesign of clinical systems and workforce, Mostashari said.
SINI co-chair Staggers moderated a panel discussion, "Knowledge Management: Envisioning the Future and Optimizing Work Design for Nurses." It took place on opening day shortly after the announcement of her bequest. She has gained expertise in clinical informatics and held executive positions with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Health Science Center at the University of Utah, among others.
She resides in a canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah. "I feel like I've been lucky. My life could have taken a very different turn and it did not," she said, noting that as an adoptee she recently retrieved her birth certificate and learned facts that make her grateful for her upbringing.
She also expressed appreciation for her mentors at UMSON, including Professor Mary Etta Mills, ScD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. "She's been highly influential in my career."