UAB School of Nursing alumna Lenz-Norman shines at SINI

Two-time graduate makes her mark at nation's premier nursing informatics gathering
By Jimmy Creed

Stephanie Lenz-Norman, MSN, RN, was preparing to make her first podium presentation at the 26th Annual Summer Institute of Nursing Informatics (SINI) in Baltimore when she got the call.

Lenz-Norman, director of nursing informatics at Children’s of Alabama and a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing’s MSN-Nursing Informatics Specialty Track, had originally been scheduled to fill a 30-minute slot featuring the work she completed for her graduate project on smart pump interoperability. But another speaker’s cancellation had left event organizers with an additional 30-minute window, and they felt Lenz-Norman’s topic was important enough to allot it to her.

Despite the short notice, Lenz-Norman agreed, and her expanded presentation, “Smart Pump Interoperability: Tightening the Loop on Medication Administration,” went over well with a packed house of interested attendees.

“I was able to accommodate their request, and it was great because people really were very interested,” Lenz-Norman said. “The room was full because there are not many hospitals using this technology yet for many reasons, and people want to know more. There was much conversation on the topic and great questions from the audience. Filling the whole hour was not a problem at all.”

Being asked to play such a role at one of the nation’s premier gatherings of nursing informaticians was a testament to the growing interest in Lenz-Norman’s topic and the School’s Nursing Informatics Specialty Track as a whole, said Associate Professor Marisa Wilson, DNSc, MHSc, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FAAN.

Lenz Norman at SINI RTThere was great interest in Stephanie Lenz-Norman's hour-long presentation on smart pump interoperability at the Summer Institute of Nursing Informatics held at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.“Stephanie did phenomenal work at the end of her master’s program in her practicum at UAB Hospital on smart pump integration and looking at the initial evidence for them,” said Wilson, the School’s Nursing Informatics Specialty Track coordinator. “SINI asked her to fill a whole hour because the work she did was new, very important and extremely useful for the particular group of nurse informaticians attending this conference.

“She is the first of what I hope will be many graduate students in the UAB School of Nursing Informatics program who take advantage of opportunities such as this one to highlight the work they are doing.”

Informatics is certainly not how Lenz-Norman expected to make her impact in the nursing profession, however.

After earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the School in 2008, Lenz-Norman started her career as a bedside nurse in Children’s pediatric intensive care unit where she found her “heart and soul.” Then came the installation of a new computer system on her unit and the advent of electronic medication administration that turned her normal nursing workflow upside down.

As the work with computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and other elements of the electronic health record progressed, Children’s Chief Nursing Officer, Deb Wesley, MSN, RN, took Lenz-Norman and two other nurses from the bedside and devoted them full-time to its implementation throughout the hospital. Wesley’s vision was to have those who truly understood a nurse’s day, and all that comes with it, aid in the further development of the electronic health record. Lenz-Norman was originally scheduled to work on the project for a year, but more than six years later, she’s still at it.

“We were told ‘You’ll go back to the bedside,’ but they found great value in nurses and how we can use the critical thinking skills we learned as nurses and adopt them to the technical side of clinical IT,” Lenz-Norman said. “I have truly found my passion.”

Lenz-Norman’s success in her new role led her instead to pursue her MSN in nursing informatics, which is defined by the American Nursing Association (ANA) as "science and practice (that) integrates nursing, its information and knowledge, with management of information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families and communities worldwide.” Once her decision was made, she only had to look across the street to know where she wanted to go to grad school.

“I chose the UAB School of Nursing because I am a Birmingham native, and I had such a great experience there as an undergrad nursing student,” Lenz-Norman said. “Honestly it was such a natural transition for me to go there that I didn’t do a ton of research on other schools. They had the program I wanted, I met with them, and my decision was made.”

The opportunity to learn from and work with Wilson, a pioneer in the nursing informatics field and 30-year veteran analyst, project leader and manager implementing information systems in public health and acute care settings, was a strong selling point to Lenz-Norman as well.

“With her wealth of knowledge, Dr. Wilson has brought a ton to the table for the program, and I still frequently ask her opinion on things,” Lenz-Norman said. “She gives you a well-rounded viewpoint of what nursing informatics truly is. The nursing informatics curriculum is challenging, but once you’ve taken that last class, you realize that Dr. Wilson really does help you bring it all together and make sense of it all.”

A long affiliation with the University of Maryland School of Nursing and its informatics program, the oldest in the country, SINI, the American Medical Informatics Association, and the Health Information Management System Society are just some of the connections Wilson brings to her position at the School and relies on to push her students into the nursing informatics world.

For example, Wilson knew through her association with SINI that students could volunteer to help with day-to-day operations of the conference in exchange for free registration and the opportunity to fully participate in the proceedings. So in addition to Lenz-Norman, current students Tonya Judson, BSN, and Mary Deane Davis, BSN, were able to attend the 400-person event as well.

“What it does is give the students access to experts they would never be able to be up close and personal with otherwise,” Wilson said. “Several of the students took that opportunity and spent four days with me this summer and were like ‘We met this person that wrote this paper’ or ‘I heard that person and you had me review their book.’ It was exciting for them, and they got lots of positive feedback for their participation.”

When talking with perspective students, Wilson also points out the Nursing Informatics Specialty Track is distance accessible with flexibility for those who might want a combination of on-line and face-to-face courses, the size of its cohorts is manageable, and there is important interprofessional interaction with students from the UAB School of Health Professions.

“That is an excellent opportunity because when these nurses graduate with their master’s degrees, they are going to work in a world that is not just made up of nurses,” Wilson said. “They are going to work with computers scientists, physicians, pharmacists and others. They have to learn how to be on a team and lead a team. The beauty of our program is that we have such a good mix of all these things.”

Another point Wilson always stresses is the success of graduates like Lenz-Norman, who heads a team that has expanded from three members to 12, and will soon grow even more to cover Children’s inpatient, outpatient, and emergency department settings.

“Most people go into nursing because they have a passion for patient care and helping people get better,” Lenz-Norman said. “In nursing informatics, you’re still that patient advocate, you’re just behind the scenes. You’re not just taking care of the patients anymore, you’re also taking care of your peers. It’s actually a lot bigger than anything I could have ever imagined, and I love it.”
Last modified on March 19, 2019

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