Meet our featured member for May... Julie Haigh

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Julie Haigh is a Digital Midwife & Clinical Digital Change Manager living and working in North Cumbria. She is also a new Fellow of the Faculty. Julie was kind enough to take the time to speak to us about how she got involved in informatics, digital interventions, and the importance of social media!

Hi Julie! Please can you introduce yourself and explain what your current role is?

Hi, I'm Julie and I'm a Digital Midwife & Clinical Digital Change Manager living and working in North Cumbria. My Digital Midwife role is one of supporting the maternity service to realise the local and national objectives to deliver on the digital agenda.  As a Digital Midwife it has been my honour and privilege to lead and deliver a project to move North Cumbria NHS Trust to a paperlite digital maternity system and meeting an NHS Long Term Plan objective of providing all women with access to their digital care record using a mobile devise nearly 5 years ahead of schedule.  I work closely with our suppliers and the in-house digital care team to ensure data quality, reporting, and accessibility in what is a geographically challenged area of the UK. 

Aside from the reporting, problem solving, training, planning and supporting I undertake every day, I believe my role is to act as a conduit between clinical and digital. Some days it is akin to being a language translator who can help both clinical and digital visualise and understand each other.

As a new Fellow of the Faculty who joined this month, could you let us know how you found out about the Faculty, what your expectations were when you joined, and how you think the Faculty can influence the informatics landscape?

I was informed about the Faculty by a contact from Twitter, thank you @ClaireLSutton.  She advised me that applications for membership were open and suggested where to start.   I applied to  become a member of the Faculty with the expectation that joining the Faculty would provide me with the opportunity to join likeminded clinicians who understand the value and importance of utilising technology, to not only enhance patient safety but also recognised that digital transformation must be patient focused, clinically lead and digitally enabled.  Digital health has for far too long has delivered solutions that don’t work or they are underutilised by staff simply because there has been little or no clinical involvement.

As a Digital Midwife working within the Midwives Expert Reference Group, supported by NHS Digital, I know this Faculty has a chance to drive change within the NHS, raising the profile of clinical informatics to the point where no digital healthcare project should ever be undertaken without a clinical lead.  This Faculty has a golden opportunity to demonstrate how Clinical informatics has such an important role to play in the design and development of technology for now and the future.

As the first informatics midwife at the Faculty, how did you get involved in clinical informatics and electronic patient records?

Where do I begin? Really I would say my passion started as a Student years ago.  I had worked in engineering, where everything was computerised and automated.  I found it difficult to  go back to paper and pen after using computers and systems for pretty much most of my adult working life.  Here was I walking around with a mini computer in my pocket every day and yet still having to stress each shift in case I lost my black inked ‘nice writer’. 

When I qualified I became increasingly frustrated with the ever increasing amount of paperwork required for each and every woman I was caring for.  These women were being given document after document to carry around and if they lost them……………. It felt wrong.  It felt unsafe, costly and flawed.  Do you know as a midwife at a 90 min booking appointment I would have to sign and print my name over 50 times, not to mention if the address was wrong or the lady had changed her name! I am not going to go there - I can feel the stress rising as I write this. I knew there was a better way, I could recognise the immediate benefits and I knew I had to work smarter not harder.

During the difficulty of the current COVID-19 pandemic, digital interventions are more vital than ever. What digital interventions have helped you that you’d like more people to know about?

One of the most amazing uses of the maternity electronic patient records is the ability to conduct informed telephone consultations. It didn’t matter if I was at home or in the hospital I could see exactly what personalised care plan a lady had which supported clinical decision making and communication between the clinical staff.

Another was the utilisation of the woman’s digital care record app (we use BadgerNet) to send communications out to all the women booked in our service.  We would send them a notification that there was a new letter or leaflet in the app and we were able to communicate so quickly with them about changes to arrangements, clinics, the latest advice, support.  The feedback has been amazing.  Most women have said the contacts and information gave them confidence and reassurance at a time when it was clearly needed.

What advice would you give to midwives, nurses, or any clinicians who would like to pursue a career in informatics but aren’t sure how, or don’t consider themselves to have informatics experience?

Get on Twitter - seriously, it's a great way to network and see what is happening out in the world of health tech.  I have made some very useful and valuable contacts through Twitter. 

I will tell you a secret. When I took on the role as a Digital Midwife I didn’t even know about clinical informatics I was just a midwife working with IT to make a project happen.  So if I can do this so can you. You never know you could become the next Chief Nursing Information Officer (CNIO) or Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO), that’s my aspiration.  Now is the time to become involved in clinical informatics, it new it is developing and growing in to a recognised career pathway. I am just about to undertake a secondment as a Clinical Digital Change Manager which is something I would never have applied for two years ago.

Be resilient.  Not everyone you usually work with will understand why you want to get involved with anything to do with IT and sometimes it can be a bit of a lonely place.  There is however such a sense of achievement when you make a difference, when you can impact and improve on those manual time consuming processes you have in your department. 

Be open.  Open to change and the challenges that can bring.  Open to new ideas or suggestions.

Be a change agent and immerse yourself in change management techniques because that’s a skill you will undoubtedly need.

Finally, what guidance do you wish you had been able to offer yourself when starting out in informatics?

I wish I had known about how useful change management techniques were. I would have told myself don’t be frightened of not knowing or understanding.  People can and will explain and if they don’t, they probably don’t understand it themselves.  Be organised and learn how to use OneNote and how to manage your emails.   You have the best question ever, ‘why’? Don’t forget to use it.