At 18, Mike Widmann had it all planned out. He had just started college at the University of Pittsburgh and had plans to study biomedical engineering, but an accidental fall from a rope bridge left him seriously injured—and changed his whole life.
“I had to take two semesters off because I couldn’t get around and had dislocated my foot, broken my fibula and dislocated my shoulder,” says Mike, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Once he healed and was ready to return to school, he went to his local community college instead and started taking classes toward an Associate Degree of Nursing. After graduating in 2002, Mike started his nursing career at Western Pennsylvania Hospital as a critical care nurse in the coronary care unit.
ICU, Clinical Education and Clinical Informatics
In 2006, Mike joined Excela Health, Westmoreland Hospital, as a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit. The role became full time and he left Western Pennsylvania Hospital in 2007. From there, Mike’s career at Westmoreland progressed—from a staff nurse to a front-line supervisor and then he a clinical education specialist in 2012.
While in that role, Mike started the MSN Nursing Informatics program at American Sentinel University. “I had joined our hospital’s clinical informatics committee while I was in the education position and I found that I really liked marrying technology with nursing practice,” says Mike. “I also felt that informatics was a great move career wise and American Sentinel was one of the few informatics-focused MSN programs I’d found. My hospital was early in implementing electronic medical records and I knew there was opportunity in that area for me.” After graduating in 2014, Mike left the bedside to become a clinical informatics coordinator at Westmoreland Hospital.
On to a Doctor of Nursing Practice Informatics Leadership
After enjoying his new career path, Mike decided it was time to further his education. “I looked at the University of Pittsburgh just down the road but I came back to American Sentinel for the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership for a combination of reasons,” he says. “The online format was very appealing, the cost was affordable and the quality was high.” Mike started the program in 2018 and will graduate in 2021.
As someone who has precepted MSN students and who works with nurses completing other doctorate programs, Mike feels confident in his choice to return to American Sentinel. “Every class, every project in the DNP program has a purpose,” he says. “It makes sense. The program is organized and aligned to an end goal. Everything is applicable to what you learn as you go.”
Laying out a path for the future
In the last few years, Mike has gotten involved with the American Nursing Informatics Association and helped establish a Western Pennsylvania chapter, for which he serves as secretary. He even presented recently at the organization’s annual conference on how Excela Health weaved nursing workflow into the design of its new intensive care unit.
These days, Mike is thinking about the future and where he can make the most contributions. He’d love to become a chief nursing informatics officer or a chief informatics officer down the road. “I’ve seen how nurses can lay out a path for the future, and I think we have a lot of work to do in the area of informatics,” Mike says. “We’re checking boxes for technology use but not getting the benefit out of the technologies we’ve implemented. I want to be a leader in that space. That’s my goal.”
Inspired by Mike’s story? A DNP with a specialization in informatics leadership enables nurses with informatics experience to combine their passion for nursing with their skills in technology and data, and to lead informatics in today’s healthcare systems. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.