Jackie Murphy may not label herself an IT nerd, but there’s little doubt she’s successfully supported her organisation’s digitisation efforts – her award as Digital Health’s inaugural CNIO of the Year is testament to that. Hannah Crouch speaks to Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust’s chief nurse to find out how a focus on the patient led her to a focus on IT.

Patients and their clinical needs are what it is all about for Jackie Murphy. The chief nurse at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust – winner of the first Digital Health CNIO of the Year Award earlier this year – says she does not label herself “an IT nerd” but rather a “people nerd”.

She joined Calderdale and Huddersfield 10 years ago, having previously worked at The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, across both medicine and surgery; she has also held senior nurse leadership positions at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Becoming a tech advocate

But it was her time as deputy director of nursing at her current trust, with a specific responsibility for modernisation, that saw her become heavily involved in health digitisation.

“To be perfectly honest I didn’t have a great deal of interest in IT when I started,” she admits.

“The role came about around two years the trust’s CEO approached me about an opportunity in leadership and innovation.

“When I started the role I soon came to realise it was about getting right back to the patient and the difference it could make them.

“Since then I have become a huge advocate for technology and the difference it can make.”

She was central to the deployment of the trust’s electronic patient record (EPR), while also helping colleagues from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust go-live with the same system. Her work to develop and maintain relationships between the two trusts during this period was noted by many of those who voted for her as CNIO of the Year.

Importance of data flow

Jackie was also part of the team which helped develop an interface between the trust’s Cerner Millennium electronic patient record and its e-observation software which is provided by Nervecentre – said to be the first interface of its type.

Colleagues praise her for listening to frontline staff as well as brokering difficult conversations and decisions but always keeping a patient-centric view.

And Jackie says listening carefully to those on the ground is a key piece of advice she would give to other clinical IT leaders.

“From my perspective, clinicians have been hugely skilled for a number of years,” she said.

“Therefore if you want them to get on board with new technology, you have to listen to them.”

No ‘i’ in team

Despite walking away with the CNIO of the Year Award, Jackie understands the value of having a good team. She points to the example of Bradford’s EPR go live. One of the challenges of that project, she says, was working within two different cultures.

But she reports as the project progressed, all those involved from Calderdale and Bradford gelled into one team.

“No matter where they worked, our purpose remained the same and we all brought different skills to the table,” she said.

“Though our personalities varied we fit together well as a team and supported each other.”

Joys of the job

When asked about what she enjoys most about working in the NHS, we come almost full circle as Jackie takes it right back to the patients.

“For me being able to enforce change and be creative is what makes my job so special,” she said.