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Could you be a chief nurse information officer?

Published on: 21 Oct 2021

Find out if a chief nurse information officer sounds like your next nursing job.

Could you be a chief nurse information officer?

As digital tech becomes central to healthcare, NHS trusts need chief nurse information officers (CNIOs) to help ensure systems work for staff

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What is a chief nurse information officer?
A CNIO is a senior nurse in an organisation who plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between IT professionals, clinicians and hospital management, ensuring new technologies meet the needs of nurses in clinical practice.

What does the role involve?
CNIOs engage and communicate with staff from all specialties across the trust, as well as external IT suppliers. We are involved in the design of digital systems, training in their use, assessment of clinical risk attached to new and current systems, and the governance that wraps around these systems.
Although we are looking at digital systems, we look at them through a nurse’s eyes.

Who do CNIOs report to and who do they work with?
Different trusts have different structures, so work is underway to standardise the role of the CNIO across the NHS.

I am line-managed by a programme manager, directly accountable to the director of informatics and clinically accountable to the director of nursing.
I line-manage three digital nurses and our nursing teams work directly with the clinical projects team.

In my day-to-day work, I liaise with all clinical teams at the trust – from the emergency department to outpatients and pathology.

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What skills and qualifications do you need for the role?
This varies between trusts. For my post, there was a focus on previous experience of involvement in setting up a new project or service.

Prior to taking up my CNIO post in November 2020, I was a diabetes nurse specialist where I helped implement a new community service. The lessons I learned from this have been beneficial in my CNIO role.

A Master’s qualification was desirable and I have an MSc in diabetes advanced practice, as was a PRINCE2 project management qualification. Management experience was essential.

What band/salary is the role?
I started on an annexe to Band 8a and my Band 7 salary was matched. This was uplifted to an 8a when I gained my PRINCE2 qualification and undertook clinical risk management training.

What should I do if I am interested in a role like this?
Seek out your trust’s CNIO or digital nurses. Ask if you can have a chat with them about their role or can spend some time shadowing them.

As there was no CNIO at my trust, I met with the chief clinical information officer (CCIO) in the run-up to my interview to learn more about what the job entailed, and what I needed to read up on.

Consider what transferable skills you already have that could fit the role, such as good time management, independent working, effective communication skills and, of course, an interest in all things digital.

Twitter is a fantastic resource to get networking with digital clinicians – check out the hashtags #digitalnursing, #digitalclinicians and #clinicalinformatics.

By Natalie Hayes, a chief nurse information officer at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. @NatalieCNIO

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This is an abridged version of the article What does a chief nurse information officer do – and could you be one? which was first published in Nursing Standard.

Read more careers articles on Nursing Standard