Nursing Graduate Seeking Masters In Health Informatics

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Born and raised in China, Xiaowen “Silvia” Luo ’20 transferred into the nursing program at Dominican University of California, thrived in leadership roles, and is now headed to the University of Michigan’s Master of Health Informatics program this fall with a goal of one day becoming a health consultant.

At Dominican, Silvia perfected her English and served as a peer mentor to a diverse student population, a skills/simulation lab worker assisting other students in skill acquisition, and as a volunteer for Stanford Health Care and nursing intern of Tufts’ Medical Center. She was also the president of the Global Ambassadors organization at Dominican, helping to promote intercultural competency and raise awareness of the rich and varied contributions that international students bring to the teaching-learning environment.

It was Silvia’s plan all along to involve herself in campus activities to enrich her Dominican experience. She would like to pay that forward.

“I always have the dream to be a part of a leadership team, and Dominican provided me the opportunity to do so,” says Silvia, who has been working full-time as a Registered Nurse at a subacute healthcare facility in the Bay Area.

“When I first entered Dominican, I got a lot of help from my peer mentor about adjusting to the new school’s system, new school life, and study tips. Because of that, I would like to do the same thing for Dominican’s new incoming students to help them adjust to the new environment,” she says.

The Global Education Office gave Silvia the opportunity to be the president of Global Ambassadors and then supported her as she created WorldFest, a signature event for Global Ambassadors.

“Dominican has shown me that I am capable of doing more than I realized,” Silvia says.

Silvia’s introduction to Dominican started when, while studying at College of San Mateo. After attending an informational session on the San Rafael campus, Silvia enrolled as a transfer student.

“The orientation leaders were so enthusiastic and supportive throughout the session. I especially liked visiting the simulation lab, as I could visualize myself practicing my skills during nursing school,” Silvia says.

Silvia’s interest in health-related applications and information-related skills piqued when, in 2019, she and a nursing program partner, Angela Garcia, created their senior thesis by tackling a highly-relevant issue to nursing concerning the use of the electronic health record and nurses’ decision making.  The pair delved into complex and significant processes, “The Impact of Electronic Health Record Use on Registered Nurses’ Critical Thinking, Decision-Making, and Quality of Care for Hospitalized Patients.”

The research, posted in Dominican Scholar, served as an inspiration for Silvia in deciding her career path. She enlisted the help of a team of faculty members in the School of Health and Natural Sciences to guide her.

“I still remember my last assignment in the Nursing program was to write about `What do you see yourself in five years.’ I knew that I would like to be a consultant at some point in my life, but I didn't know how and what I needed to do to become one,” Silvia says. “I spoke with Dr. (Alicia) Bright, and she held a couple one-on-one zone sessions with me to do research about my possible path of becoming a consultant. We looked up schools and programs that might fit me.

“After that, we narrowed it down to health informatics to be my go-to major for graduate school.  I also spoke with Barbara McCamish from the Sim lab regarding my thoughts of majoring in health informatics as well. She has talked to me about future planning after pursuing a degree in health informatics. After speaking with them, I knew that health informatics is my right path. Dr. Olivia Catolico was also super supportive when I asked her for advice and a letter of recommendation as well.”

Silvia narrowed her choices down to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Silvia, who speaks fluent English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, believes the University of Michigan’s Health Informatic program will provide her the education needed to improve the Electronic Health Records (EHR) system and gain skills for system analysis and program development. Dominican’s nursing program prepared her.

“During nursing school, I gained experience working with different EHR platforms. I have found differences and similarities between platforms, and I have noticed areas that can be improved,” Silvia says.

“I became eager to learn more about the healthcare system, and this has inspired me to pursue a degree in health informatics. I am seeking a higher education to allow me to help patients through the advancement of the EHR system. I believe the University of Michigan’s Master of Health Informatics will expand my knowledge and provide me with the resources I need to improve the EHR system through education on the structure and technologies of the healthcare system.”

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