Superheroes of Nursing 2012: Jennifer Marcellus Named the Educator!

Officially, Jennifer Marcellus, RN, MSN, BC, PCCN, is an educator but you could just as easily call her an interpreter. Jennifer is a clinical educator for Computers and Informatics at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, Nebraska. It’s a big job.

“I see myself as an interpreter between the nurses and technology,” she explains. “I translate what the nurses’ need in a way that makes sense for the IT Department so that the nurses get what they need. You need someone in the middle who understands both sides.”

It’s not news that nursing and IT don’t always understand each other. They speak two different languages. Nurses may express a technological need but may not understand the IT side well enough to know how best to bring about the change. Jennifer acts as an intermediary, bringing clarity to both sides. By understanding priorities on both sides, Jennifer is instrumental in delivering computer systems that are compatible with the clinician’s workflow. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking IT to add a specific question to a documentation screen. Other times, it’s more complicated.

In addition to working as a liaison between nursing and IT, Jennifer conducts nursing computer orientation, teaching new nurses how to document and how to do care plans. Currently, she’s engaged in making a major transition to an entirely new computer system and solving any problems that come up along the way. She is also the resource person for evidence-based nursing research. “In today’s health care arena, hospitals and nurses are constantly asked to do more with less,” she says. “When nurses are looking for innovative ways to get things done, as an educator I can help them find the resources they need.”

Jennifer has always been interested in computers, even in nursing school where she took programming classes while working on her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She graduated in 1996. She later returned to earn a master’s degree in informatics, which she completed in 2007.

Her first job was as an RN in the float pool at Good Samaritan Hospital. Eventually, she began working in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU). In 2008, she spent a year in the IT Department before returning to the PCU for another year. She ultimately settled in her current position, which she’s held for four years.

Jennifer continues to work occasional shifts as a patient care nurse in the PCU to maintain her nursing skills but also to help educate staff on the importance of point-of-care documentation. She believes that doing so not only keeps her nursing skills sharp but also gives her a better understanding of the bedside nurse’s workflow and processes. “Sometimes nurses are asked to do things that are really challenging,” she says. “It helps that I have the nurse’s perspective and understand what they’re saying. I can be a better advocate and it gives me more credibility.”

The Educator

Jennifer has been named The Educator in Mosby’s Superheroes of Nursing Contest. The Educator is the go-to nurse who has the right answer to every question and who is always ready to share her powers with others. She was nominated by her colleagues who credit her with taking the clinical educator position to a new level. Jennifer was commended for her work to help improve nurses’ understanding of technology and for her role as a liaison so that IT can help implement nursing changes. She is known for her abundant energy and excellence in follow-through to get the job done.

The Choice to Learn

Jennifer is indeed an exceptional educator. “I think in nursing you make a choice,” she says. “You graduate and then you either keep doing things the same way every day or you decide to keep learning.”

Obviously, Jennifer chose the latter. She feels strongly that continuing education is part of being a nurse. She is also a strong supporter of certification. She has earned certifications in informatics and in progressive care and has worked actively to promote certifications for nurses in her hospital. “By seeking certification, you keep learning,” she says. “You read articles, network, and attend conferences where you meet people and learn how they have solved problems.”

Lifelong learning and intellectual curiosity are aspects of nursing that Jennifer is passionate about. “I think probably the best quality an educator can have is to stay curious,” she says. Rarely does a day go by when she doesn’t read a trade article. She continually updates the orientation materials she has created while researching new nursing innovations. She believes in always going the extra mile and in investigating rather than taking issues at face value. “I think that’s why I like informatics,” she says. “You have to have the curiosity to want to get at the root cause of a problem. It takes someone who is curious to look at the big picture and determine what happened and how to avoid it in the future.”

Jennifer strives to be more than an educator. She believes that it is important for nurses to have preceptors, mentors, and role models. She has made it a goal to help fill these roles for other nurses and help them excel as well. “I hope other nurses see me as a person who will help them move up,” she says.

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