Oct 05, 2014
By Leah Geller

An emerging leader in her field

Manal Kleib helps students and nurses embrace informatics

Teckles Photography Inc.“Health care is an information-intensive industry,” says Manal Kleib (right). “Meaningful and effective use of information helps us make better decisions about patient care.”

“In my early years of clinical practice, IT personnel walked around my nursing station and made decisions about information systems to be used in care. Back then, I never thought about my role in these decisions. I just worried about how I would use the machine!”

Today, Manal Kleib, a faculty lecturer at the University of Alberta, has an entirely different understanding of how nurses relate to technology and its importance to decision-making in their practice.

Kleib started her career as a diploma-prepared critical care nurse and a first lieutenant in the Jordanian armed forces. She quickly realized the importance of attaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing but found herself held back by the army rank system. She resigned her position with the army and joined Amman Surgical Hospital.

The new work environment provided flexibility and opportunity. Kleib completed the bachelor’s degree bridging program while working night shifts, following it up with a critical care fellowship at a Mayo Clinic and an MSN degree. She moved quickly up the career ladder and was appointed director of nursing.

Kleib moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to work as a clinical coordinator and a deputy director in the Sharjah Institute of Nursing. Within five years, she had completed an MBA in health-care management through distance education and had become the institute’s director.

“The MBA studies challenged me to think more about ways to improve patient care through the use of information technology,” Kleib says. “The informatics focus was a good fit with my education and career goals.” There was high demand for nurses with this specialization, and limited opportunities in the Middle East, so she researched graduate education abroad. She decided to immigrate to Canada “because of all the good things I’d heard about it. A friend suggested Alberta as a good place to start, so I submitted my application to CARNA, prepared for the CRNE and passed the exam on the first try. As soon as I arrived, I applied for the PhD program at the U of A and accepted a sessional lecturer position in the nursing faculty.”

Few professors had specialized expertise in nursing informatics in 2007: “It was a challenge to find someone to supervise me. Back then, I was the only student there who was working in the field.”

For her thesis, Kleib developed learning modules to teach nursing students about electronic health records, the most commonly used health informatics application in clinical practice, and tested the efficacy of online and face-to-face teaching methods. The comparison showed that both methods were effective, but Kleib found that improving one’s knowledge about informatics doesn’t necessarily result in changes in attitude or self-efficacy perceptions. She realized that what learners needed is hands-on practice using patient care informatics applications along with opportunities for them to share their experiences. “Health informatics and nursing informatics are all about making technology work for us, not the other way around.”

Kleib is pleased with the recent progress made in supporting nurses, nursing students and educators and points to the nursing informatics entry-to-practice competencies, published in 2012 by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing.

Kleib has never been someone to wait for others to deal with a challenge she’s ready to take on herself. She and some of her colleagues established the Alberta Nursing Informatics Group as a forum for examining issues, learning about current projects and improving competence through educational activities. She has joined national and international organizations that support informatics development and contributes to a number of Alberta Health Services information technology projects. In June, her accomplishments were recognized with an Emerging Leader in Health Informatics Award from COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association.

Kleib is now considering a tenure-track position as her next career move. Despite a gruelling schedule over the past eight years, she continues to volunteer with the local MS Walk and Humanserve International and to travel to Jordan to care for her ailing parents. Cooking, reading, watching documentaries on history and archeology, and taking long walks in Edmonton’s parks provide relaxation and a chance to unwind. One of Kleib’s greatest pleasures is having her nieces over to bake and watch Mr Bean reruns.

Her ambitions remain squarely focused on helping nurses embrace informatics as a means of improving patient care. “Not enough nurses have the skills to leverage the investments that are being made in technology. I think they are ready to take on a bigger role; we just need to provide the education and support they need to do it.”

10 questions with Manal Kleib

What is one word you would use to describe yourself?

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I were more patient

What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?
I am actually a good cook!

Name one place in the world you’d most like to visit.

What is your biggest regret?
Taking life too seriously

What was the last good book you read?
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

What was the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
Aim high but focus on clear goals

What is the best thing about your current job?
The opportunity to challenge young minds and learn from them

What do you like least about being a nurse?
Being in situations that are emotionally taxing

Name one change you would like to make to the health system.
I would like to see more use of integrated health-care information systems to improve care coordination and reduce duplication and redundancies

Leah Geller is a freelance health and science writer in Ottawa.
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