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Ellen Makar: Nursing Informatics Leader

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2010

 "We're at that tipping point and [nursing informatics is] going to be one of those things where people are saying, 'I can't believe we didn't do this before.'"

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is Ellen Makar's story.

When Ellen Makar, MSN, RN-BC, CPHIMS, CCM, began her career as an ICU nurse in the mid-1980s, she started to notice workflow patterns that, if corrected, would increase productivity and patient safety. But changes were never made.

"We never really knew what happened with our patients—our job was just keep people alive and transfer them to the floor and we never followed up," she says. "It was a whole different mindset to what we have today. That's when the seeds were planted. I wanted to be able to look at data but there was nothing to look at. The fact that I was asking those questions as a staff nurse was weird to people."

About 25 years later, Makar is now a finance clinical coordinator in the decision support department at Yale New Haven Health System. She was also recently recognized by the American Medical Informatics Association as an emerging leader in the field of nursing informatics.

"Nursing is one of those things and has been referred to as the glue that keeps everything together," Makar says. "Nursing can get hidden because the data is part of other data sets and it's not necessarily associated with nursing. So that's what I'm working on."

But when Makar started down the path toward nursing informatics, she didn't quite know where she was headed.

"It's one of those things that's like a journey when you look back on it—it started early," she says. "You don't realize you're getting there until you're there."

After three years in the ICU, Makar ended up in managed care for the next 10 years.

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