As global leaders in innovation for the betterment of healthcare, nurses go above and beyond every day to care for their patients. Nurses give back to their communities by being the people on whom others rely. One nurse, Rebecca Schnall, Ph.D., MPH, RN-BC, uses her interests in public health and nursing informatics to research ways to improve patient care. Schnall is an assistant professor of nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York, N.Y. Her research focuses on helping people living with and at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Currently, she is working on developing apps to help people living with HIV track their symptoms and have a greater understanding of their health data. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Schnall works with with people living with HIV to develop the app, using their insights and experiences to guide the content, user interface and functionality to make it most useful to the target population. Through the apps, she hopes to empower patients to make more informed decisions about their health and therefore better self-manage their own care.
“I often see myself as the patient’s voice,” said Schnall. “As nurses, we have the advantage of being closely involved in patients’ care and can often best understand both the patient experience and how patients interface with the healthcare system. My research attempts to help patients better take care of their own health through accessing their health information, sharing their personal health information with providers and making more informed healthcare decisions.”
Another technological innovation that stemmed from Schnall’s research was the development of an instrument to measure patient safety attitudes, skills and knowledge. According to Schnall, since its development in 2008, the instrument has been widely used by educators and nurses in practice in the U.S. and abroad.
“It’s a great feeling to know that the work that I do has broader implications for changing the delivery of healthcare services, patient care and nursing practice,” said Schnall. “As nurses, we have a unique opportunity to be able to share some of the most amazing and challenging moments in peoples’ lives. Whether nurses are at the bedside, in the community, conducting research or creating policy – they are afforded the opportunity to be able to help improve the health and quality of life for people.”
To learn about embarking on a career in nursing informatics, check out the September issue of Nursing Notes.