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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

Diane Skiba

Byte by Byte: Diane Skiba Pioneers the Discipline of Nursing Informatics

Professor Diane Skiba, PhD, FAAN, FACMI, began as a graduate student at the University of Virginia working in nursing as a statistician for Dr. Veronick’s research grant and teaching nursing research courses. In those days, she needed a mainframe and punch cards to analyze data. Upon earning her PhD, she received an Apple IIe, which launched her career in health care informatics. Today, Dr. Skiba, director of the College of Nursing’s Health Care Informatics program, is considered an international expert in the field.

After attending the Symposium for Computer Application in Medical Care (SCAMC, now the American Medical Informatics Association) in 1981 and meeting Drs. Judith Ronald and Virginia Saba, she found her mission: educating nurses how to harness the technology to provide safe, effective, quality care for patients. Dr. Ronald taught the first “Computers in Nursing” course at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Dr. Saba, a nursing consultant for the HHS Health Services Resource Administration (HRSA) Division of Nursing initiated the first nursing presence at SCAMC and started the Special Interest Group: Computers in Nursing. With such mentors, Skiba was able to create her first course in computers for nursing in 1982 and pilot a similar master’s specialty at Boston University.

In the mid 1980s, computers in nursing evolved into the discipline of nursing informatics and Skiba was at the forefront. She helped develop the Scope and Standards for Nursing Informatics and was eventually recruited to the CU College of Nursing.

At CU, Skiba focused her attention in two areas: creating a successful health care informatics specialty option and examining the use of emerging technologies to promote learning and to engage consumers in their health care. For several years, she served as one of the first associate dean of informatics and director of academic innovations.

She received two HRSA Division of Nursing grants to transform the classroom-based informatics program into an online program accessible to learners all over the world. In 1997, few informatics programs existed and the CU program was one of the first online programs. These grants allowed her to offer distance learning opportunities to students and enhance their learning with different technologies. For example, the I-Collaboratory was a virtual student union where learners could interact with each other, build their network, seek support and access career information—essentially an early Facebook for students and alumni. With her early social media experience, Skiba has worked with many groups to engage consumers in their healthcare.

In 2010, with a new $2.6 million grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Skiba was able to expand CU’s certificate program to other disciplines. As one of nine university-based training programs, Skiba created a team of informatics faculty from the Anschutz Medical Campus and the School of Business. The Health Information Technology (HIT) Education Collaborative was able to fund and prepare 12 MS and 144 certificate students for the HIT workforce. She also infused some new technologies into their learning experiences, such as creating a CU virtual hospital/clinic that would allow teams to work together in an immersive environment. Other examples include Second Life, where learners create avatars to interact in the virtual world. Informatics teams hold virtual meetings, access various tools and role play scenarios that examine the impact of HIT tools on clinical practice. This creativity led the online graduate degree programs at CU to earn the designation of an “honor roll program” in the first-ever edition of Top Online Education Program rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

In September, Skiba received a HRSA grant to enhance interprofessional education on the campus through the use of various technologies. In this grant, advanced practice nursing, physician assistants, medical and pharmacy students will be provided enhanced technology IP learning experiences through the use of simulations with standardized patients (physical and virtual), e-health (telehealth, m-health) experiences and the integration of informatics and the use of electronic health records.

Skiba is grateful for the supportive environment of the campus and the College of Nursing to promote a culture of innovation. This culture has allowed her to continue her mission to educate health care professionals to harness the power of technologies to provide safe, effective and collaborative health care.