Informatics specialty draws PhD student to UAB

Cites unique specialty, affordability, outstanding faculty as reasons for pursuing two doctoral degrees
Bryan Wilbanks, DNP, CRNA, loves to gather information. He loves to analyze data and see what lessons he can learn from it. He even loves to sit down and write reports about the knowledge he gains in the process.

Wilbanks, a PhD student and adjunct instructor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing, truly loves informatics in the perioperative setting, which is the time period covering the duration of a patient’s surgical procedure – including admission, anesthesia, surgery and recovery.

In short, Wilbanks loves to delve into, dissect and denote how the flow of information in the surgical setting can help health-care professionals of all types better do their jobs and, in turn, improve outcomes for patients. And his love of informatics was one of the main reasons he chose the UAB School of Nursing to pursue his doctorate in nursing.

Wilbanks Bryan 2Bryan Wilbanks“There aren’t too many programs for nursing PhDs in the country that have the staff that can support an informatics-related research program like UAB does,” Wilbanks said. “From all the interactions I’ve had with the faculty, I can tell they care, they do a good job, and it’s just a nice place to go to school.”

The affordability of UAB in relation to the quality of education received and the ability to find just the right advisor for his area of interest were other reasons Wilbanks cited for his decision to enter the PhD program only one month after graduating from the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program in August 2012.

Wilbanks said that when trying to decide which PhD program was right for him, he, of course, did extensive research on schools across the nation. And as a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) he also heard the sales pitches of many of the country’s top programs while attending the organization’s annual congress over the years.

After analyzing all the data, however, it was obvious to him that UAB was the best choice from a cost standpoint.

“Cost was a big thing,” Wilbanks said. “An education at UAB provided me with one of the best doctoral programs across the nation. Although quality was my first concern, this program cost half as much as other programs I considered.”

The connection with his advisor for both his DNP and PhD research, Jacqueline Moss, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor in the UAB School of Nursing was another major factor in Wilbanks’ decision to stay at UAB. Moss earned her doctorate in informatics from the University of Maryland and has conducted observational research documenting informational use practices in various clinical settings.

“She is one of the big reasons I chose UAB because our interests coincide with each other, and she’s been a really good mentor,” Wilbanks said. “She has successfully guided me in my research endeavors and helped me get several publications and has encouraged me to pursue research and an academic career.”

During his time in the UAB School of Nursing, Wilbanks has already had a tremendous impact in many areas, including recently receiving two prestigious fellowship awards from the AANA.

At an awards dinner at the AANA 2015 Nurse Anesthesia Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Wilbanks was recognized as the recipient of the CRNA Palmer Carrier Doctoral Fellowship and the CNA Insurance Doctoral Fellowship and the accompanying $10,000 in funding ($5,000 for each fellowship) and was the only individual to win two of the nine total AANA fellowships presented for 2015.

Also, Wilbanks was recently awarded a $2,500 scholarship from CertifiedBackground.com and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and for each of the last two years has been awarded a $2,500 scholarship from the Alabama Board of Nursing.

“Bryan’s research in the area of perioperative information documentation and use has already contributed greatly to the body of knowledge in the field of nursing informatics,” Moss said.

With the conversion to electronic health records growing on a global scale daily, the need for those who can collect, analyze, interpret and explain the data to others is growing in conjunction as well. That need makes informatics an exciting field to be in now and should make it even more so in the future, Wilbanks said.

“I think in the future there is going to be a big demand for people who can explain the stuff that comes from all this information we’re gathering to other people,” Wilbanks said. “Informatics is about turning data, which is basic information, into knowledge, which is decision making based on basic information.

“Turning data into actions you can take based on the knowledge you get from the data is a big part of informatics, and at the UAB School of Nursing you can get a good, solid foundation in it for the future if it’s the field you want to pursue.
Last modified on August 04, 2016

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