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Interview with Brittney Wilson, author of The Nerdy Nurse’s Guide to Technology

Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Nurse practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney is the author of The Nerdy Nurse’s Guide to Technology. She is a social media influencer and blogs about nursing, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at TheNerdyNurse.com. You can also connect with her on twitter @TheNerdyNurse or Facebook The Nerdy Nurse.

What event or series of events led you to pursue nursing as a professional choice?

nerdy-nurseOriginally I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. I went into nursing because I could start the career more quickly and it would give me a taste of what it would be like to work in healthcare. I quickly discovered that all the things that I liked about plastic surgery (improving quality of life, making people happy, helping people feel better about themselves, empowering women and children) were all a part of nursing. So even though I sort of stumbled onto the career, it ended up being the perfect career for me.

Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your career in nursing and the steps you took to overcome them?

During 2008 and 2009 I faced more personal and professional challenges than many face in a lifetime. I graduated nursing school, passed the NCLEX, started my first nursing job, moved into my first home, broke my leg, got married, unexpectedly suffered the loss of my mother, and had a baby. As if this wasn’t enough stress to cope with I was being bullied at work.

I learned very early in my nursing career that nurses eat their young. Some nurses will tell you that you have to learn to grow duck feathers to let it roll off your back, but I guess I never did. I was called stupid at the nurses station in front of my peers, made to do complex bed changes by myself, never offered any assistance, and yelled at and belittled on a daily basis. When I sought help from my boss I was told that I needed to “let it roll off” and that I was taking it too personally.

Perhaps I did take it personally, but I am not sure how else you are supposed to take direct personal attacks and insults. I eventually started blogging about my ordeal and sharing resources I had found to cope with the bullying including the legal protection that nurses have. No one should have to work in a hostile work environment and I started a blog to share my experience and cope. Ultimately working on the blog gave me the experience I needed to pursue my true passion: nursing informatics. Even though the bullying I received was one of the worst experiences in my entire life it ultimately led me to my dream job.

Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

One of the most interesting projects I have worked on is a technology guide for nurses. Every day I meet nurses who are overwhelmed by technology and frustrated with all the new things they being asked to do. They often see computers as a hindrance to deliver patient care and I wanted nurses to see the value that I see in technology. I wrote The Nerdy Nurse’s Guide to Technology to empower nurses in use of technology and give them confidence to use it to enhance the patient care they deliver. This is my contribution to nurses to help reduce the fear and frustration associated with technology and it has helped many nurses so far.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you or the activities you spend the most time on at work?

As an informatics nurse my days are never the same. Some days I’m spending most of my time on an impending software upgrade, other days I am completing requests for new reports, fixing bugs in the software, communicating with vendors, and helping to improve workflow. No day is ever the same and it helps to eliminate the potential for monotony.

What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy my ability to make an impact on patient care from behind the scenes. When I worked on the floor I was only able to care for a few patients at a time. As an informatics nurse the work I do helps care for hundreds of patients every day. I love knowing that I help nurses deliver better patient care.

What advice would you give to new graduates for getting hired after graduation?

Use social media! Talk with hospitals on Twitter, talk to nurse recruiters, get on LinkedIn and spruce up your profile. You can use social media to do far more “leg work” than you could ever do in person.

Another tip is to be flexible and able to relocate. While you may not be able to find you dream job in California, you may be able to start off in a small town a few states away in a specialty that might not have been your first choice. Once you have a few years under your belt you pretty much go and do whatever you want.

What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise new graduates to mine their own strengths to further their careers?

My key strengths are my ability to be analytical and my sometimes extreme persistence. When I worked on the floor I always thought this was a character flaw. I would over analyze everything I did, said, or even thought. I would analyze every patient encounter to the point that I was just exhausted. The floor was no place for that. I later realized that nursing informatics would be the place where this skillset would allow me to shine and still help patients.

I would advise new nurses to be true to themselves and not settle. Research nursing specialties and explore new career paths. There are so many flavors of nursing that you should never be bored. Be proactive so that you never get burnt out. If there is one thing you can do to improve your life and the lives of those around you it’s to wake up every morning and tell yourself it’s going to be a great day, because you make your own destiny.

We extend our thanks to Brittney Wilson for taking the time to share her insights and advice with our readers. You can learn more about Brittney at her website, The Nerdy Nurse.