Learning objective: Summarize a population health informatics certificate program to address current and future workforce needs.
Background/introduction: A midwestern university won a competitive grant (~8 million) as part of HHS/ONC Public Health Informatics and Technology (PHIT) workforce development program. The PHIT program aims to build the informatics workforce in public health driven by COVID-19 pandemic needs. It has an emphasis on diversifying the PHIT workforce along with real-world learning opportunities through stipend-supported practicums. The pandemic underscored the collaboration between governmental public health and healthcare delivery settings along with numerous stakeholders emphasizing the need for a population health perspectives in informatics. Along with being a lead partner in the grant, the nursing school also has major emphasis/efforts to update its nursing curriculum to meet the new AACN Essentials and tap into the alignment with both informatics and population health. One of the objectives was to create a population health informatics and technology (PHIT) certificate program which will meet the needs of the workforce grant and AACN competency needs.
Methods: The development of the certificate involved two schools (nursing and public health) in the academic health center (AHC), along with collaboration from an AHC informatics institute. This post-baccalaureate certificate was adapted from an existing graduate-level nursing program and expanded on the interprofessional approach. Existing graduate level courses are being updated, and new courses will be created to meet grant/competency requirements.
Results: The PHIT certificate was approved by the board of regents at the University and will prepare trainees to harness the power of data for improving public and population health. Content focuses on information systems in public health, electronic data exchanges, and tools for consumer engagement, along with the utility of data for health equity and better population health. The certificate is set at 12 credits and all courses are offered fully online. The intent is to accommodate needs of working professionals and provide an option for training next generation of nurses in informatics. The training includes real-world practicum experience in a variety of settings: public health, non-profit care settings, HIT/EHR vendors, and associations/consultancies involved in HIT work. The PHIT certificate is designed to be inter-professional to appeal across health-related disciplines (public health, nursing, medicine, pharmacy). Through the PHIT workforce grant, the application fee will be waived, along with stipend-supported practicums. Innovative partnerships with various entities serving minority populations (Black Nurses Rock, Hmong Nurses Association, IndigiData, tribal public health) are being discussed.
Limitations: The need for aligning PHIT certificate with overall curricular revisions for AACN Essentials led to a delay in launch, but courses are being offered from Fall 2022. There will demands on faculty time for constant updates to courses given the dynamic/fast-paced field.
Conclusions/implications for practice: The PHIT certificate program is an effort to meet DEI needs as the workforce grant prioritizes under-represented individuals for practicum stipends. This also presents an innovative career development opportunity in nursing informatics. Given the recent Future of Nursing report and AACN Essentials, initiatives such as this are needed in academic nursing.
After completing this learning activity, the participant will be able to assess innovations being used by other professionals in the specialty and evaluate the potential of implementing the improvements into practice.
PhD, DNP, RN-BC,
University of Minnesota