Nurses Week Blog Series: A conversation with Donna Houlne, RN, BSN, MHA, MHRM
In honor of the continuation of the Year of the Nurse through 2021, and this year’s Nurses Week theme Nurses, a Voice to Lead, we’re sharing stories from the nurses of Infor. In these posts our nurses reflect on their own experience as caregivers, discuss how the pandemic has highlighted the extreme pressures nurses have always faced, and highlight ways that they are voicing and supporting the needs of nurses through their roles in technology.
Meet Donna Houle, Infor Healthcare Vice President, and Clinical Officer. Donna joined Infor in December and comes to us with more than 30 years of experience as a senior healthcare executive in hospital operations and consultancy.
Throughout her career, Donna has successfully created multi-disciplinary alliances and teams to meet the demands of the challenging and fluid healthcare environment. She has worked in or served most segments of the healthcare industry including providers; not-for-profit, for-profit, academic medical centers; physician office practices, healthcare payers, and life sciences.
In this interview, Donna shares perspectives from her family legacy in nursing to the intersection of technology and patient care.
Q: What interested you in a healthcare career?
A: I am a third-generation nurse and grew up in a nursing environment, so I don’t think I had a choice! My grandparents owned a nursing home, and when I was 12-years-old I would go there after school to work. It was destined to be.
After high school, I attended the University of New Hampshire to earn my BS in Nursing. It’s typical for a nursing student to start in the med/surge area but I already knew I did not want to do that. I really wanted to work, and be certified, in an ICU. So that’s what I did and was fortunate to enter a critical area right out of school.
Q: How did you transition from bedside care to healthcare technology?
A: I originally thought I would become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Then I got married, had a child, and worked his first three Christmases. By that time, I was already a director of critical care. I had worked in eight ICUs and was approached by my hospital’s VP of Risk Management and Critical Care Quality, who asked if I wanted to work in that department. I initially said no. Then I heard about the weekday work hours, with no holidays. More importantly, I also found patient safety quality was a place I could really make a difference. I went back and received my first Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration, and a second in Healthcare Risk Management. Then I became interested in the technology that supports patient safety and moved onto Deloitte, and then IBM.
Q: How does your role at Infor support your passion for patient safety?
A: I have a dual role at Infor: Vice President of Healthcare Partner Alliances, and Clinical Officer. In both roles, I work to align all solutions, all sellers, to make sure we are not simply selling an ERP solution. We are providing a bigger, broader view of our healthcare platform and how it connects to the mission of healthcare, with patients and families at the center. Today, we are very focused on clients first, then the client’s client –which is, of course, the patient.
Q: You joined Infor six months ago, in the middle of the pandemic. Can you share thoughts on how that has impacted the industry?
A: If nothing else, COVID-19 has really exposed the deficiencies and where healthcare needs to be within the system. Many hospitals were unprepared for the supply chain needs, nurse and staffing demands, and financial impacts. And now our clients are being mandated by ONC and CMS, as of June and July this year, to offer complete transparency and patient access to their healthcare information.
This means that technology, such as Infor’s CloudSuite Healthcare for human resources, supply chain, and financials and the Cloverleaf interoperability suite, which can break down operational siloes are no longer a nice-to-have. They are a necessity.
Q: How does this affect the future of Infor’s work?
A: It’s all about the human side of healthcare. A couple of months ago, I started a clinical advisory network, made up of 44 people who have worked within the four walls of the hospital. They walk the walk and talk the talk. Ninety percent of them are nurses, but the team also includes ER technicians, EMTs, and hospital project managers. Our goal is to make sure our work is always focused on the patient and family.
I will always consider myself a nurse’s nurse. When we emerge from the pandemic, I want our products to continue to focus on the patient experience and better outcomes.