Sarah Anne Collins, RN, PhD

Current Affiliation: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

Education: Bachelors of Science in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; Health Care Management Minor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; PhD, Columbia University School of Nursing, Post-doc in Informatics in Department of Biomedical informatics, Columbia University

How I describe my work to those outside the field …

Informatics is not just about technology in healthcare. It is about integrating clinical needs: what clinicians need to deliver the best patient care they can and patient needs. (It’s about) how we can facilitate that and develop new knowledge using technology, tools and better processes to help them do their work better and communicate in more efficient, effective, and safe ways for patient care.

Years of experience …

I began working in informatics about eight years ago, when I started at Columbia. I worked clinically for about six years, including my years working per-diem ICU shifts during graduate school.

Why informatics?

I began working clinically in a cardiac ICU. After working for a while at Massachusetts General Hospital, I worked as a travel nurse in San Diego and then worked at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center as an ICU float nurse during graduate school. I noticed that, the systems that I was working with, and the type of documentation and resources that were there to support my work, really impacted how well I was able to deliver care.

It was striking to me how much the systems around me could impact the patient care that I was able to deliver. I always had a very strong interest in research and as a new nurse I actively looked at exactly what type of research I would like to go into within nursing. I think the high tech end of working in the ICU and recognizing the usefulness of specific information resources made it clear that informatics was really the place for me.

Looking back on my first year as a nurse, I remember wondering why people used some information resources and not others, how experienced nurses managed to write less data, but convey more information, and observing that I documented differently when I was concerned about a patient. I also remember my “aha” moment during my orientation as a new graduate nurse. I realized how the ICU unit actually worked as a system and thought that it was pretty impressive, but realized there was a lot of room for human error and miscommunication.

What are your ambitions? At the end of your career what do you hope to have accomplished?

I hope that at the end of my career our health care system provides clinicians and patients with care coordination tools that are patient and family-centered, that empower clinicians with information and knowledge to deliver the best care they can, and that allow patients to engage in and understand their care in a way that achieves the best results.

Who or what are your key sources in the informatics field?

I am so fortunate to have such a long list of mentors. I think that is by nature of going to school at Columbia. It has both the nursing school as well as the biomedical informatics department. In looking at who are my mentors, I was under Sue Bakken’s training grant and she is still an amazing mentor that I know I can email anytime – and I do. Leanne Currie was an exceptional advisor during my PhD program and still is, Elaine Larson and Pat Stone were great research mentors at the nursing school and I was able to have Enrico Coeira as an outside reviewer on my dissertation committee. Faculty at the biomedical informatics department were great mentors from the beginning of my PhD through my Post-doc years, Jim Cimino, George Hripsack, Pete Stetson, Dave Kaufman, and David Vawdrey.

I didn’t even realize when I started as a new PhD student how exceptional my experience really was. And it has just continued with my work here at Partners. Patti Dykes and Roberto Rocha, and Denise Goldsmith, , to name a few, are some of the influential leaders. In addition, as an Alliance for Nursing Informatics Emerging Leader I am mentored by Jackie Moss from University of Alabama and Dana Alexander from GE Healthcare. I also have a great network of pre and post-doc trainee colleagues.

Articles that spotlight my research interests …

There are four articles that best highlight my research interests, the intersection of care coordination, communication, and documentation:

AMIA is important to me because …

It brings together leaders and experts in informatics who are working to move the academic side of the field forward in a meaningful way. Many of them are working in academic roles as well as operational roles within health systems and they are the experts in the field. The opportunities every year at the annual conference to generate new ideas and to learn what other people are working on really is critical to my research. It is so critical to build incrementally on other’s work and experiences and not to just work in your own little silo. And it is also a whole lot of fun to catch up with old friends.

I am involved with AMIA …

This year I was selected as an ANI Emerging Leader. Their governing committee meets at AMIA every year, and so that’s one of my main involvements right now. I am also part of the nursing informatics working group and definitely hope to increase my involvement with AMIA.

It may surprise people to know …

I am trying to improve my tennis game. I took lessons last summer and am in a tennis tournament this summer.

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