“In it to win it!”: Anne Cooper discusses her hopes for the Faculty

Recently appointed as Chief Clinical Digital Officer with mHabitat, an organisation supporting digital innovation in health and social care, Anne Cooper has over 30 years’ experience working in nursing, informatics and organisational development at national level. Following her recent retirement as Chief Nurse at NHS Digital, we’re delighted that Anne agreed to take some time to share her thoughts on the Faculty, nursing informaticians, and women in informatics with us.

I am delighted to see the formation of the Faculty for Clinical Informatics. I have watched it from when it was a glint in several notable leaders’ eyes, through its embryonic stages, and am now gazing on as it makes its first baby steps. Everyone involved should be rightly proud that we have finally got here; we have the Founding Fellows and Fellows, and the Faculty established. Everyone should take a bow as we are now on the journey to professionalise the work of those clinical staff who work in health IT. I believe strongly that this is the right thing to do. We need to ensure that those professionals supporting the development, deployment and use of health IT systems, and those who use data and information, have the right skills and specialist knowledge to transform health and care.

I do have some niggling concerns. The Faculty model is based historically on that of a medical Royal College and, as such, is less familiar to some of the clinicians they aim to attract. I always made my views on this clear, as a member of the steering group, before the Faculty was properly established; I feel it’s less than perfect in its ability to attract nurses, but it was the right thing to do. I am delighted to say there are some fantastic nurses and professionals other than doctors on the list of Founding Fellows but there are still not enough.

For me, clinical informatics is also a very male domain. I don’t have the numbers, but my feeling is that women remain in the minority. I was in Barcelona, at the HIMSS Europe conference, when they reported the finding of the annual Women in Health IT Survey; again, disappointing reading, with 60% of respondents indicating they had experienced workplace discrimination in their roles. I do wonder what we need to do to make things better?

One thing I have learnt, in the many years that I have been working in informatics, is that the best way to achieve change is to be in it, to win it! If we are going to change these numbers and make the Faculty a more balanced organisation, we need people to step up and join in. The Faculty is aiming to open up to different types of members soon and I urge all women, who are clinical professionals working in IT, to look to how they can join in and I encourage the many nurses I know, who do fantastic work, to join too. Maybe it doesn’t feel quite right yet, but only with your influence and voice will it change. I know the Faculty want this to happen – so let’s crack on and make our mark and claim our places.