Advancing nursing means tackling new challenges in many areas for this caregiver.

Family ties got Dan Roberts into nursing, but the opportunity to blaze new trails has kept him engaged and active in both the medical and academic sides of the profession.

“My father is one of 12 children, and he was very close to his three sisters who became nurses,” Roberts says. “My father was a hospital administrator, so I grew up around all these peo­ple talking about taking care of people. I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, but wasn’t sure what that would be.”

While he sorted that out, he began coursework at the University of Georgia pursuing several majors: law, medicine, chemistry, pharmacy, dentistry and computer science. By his sophomore year, Roberts’ academic advisor was advocating for a more narrowed focus.

“I had all these credits, and I quali­fied for nursing, so I came around to it,” he says. “I knew my aunts had joyous work and always had good things to say about nursing, and every­one else was moaning about my career trajectory. I knew how my unofficial mentors felt, so I chose their path.”

New program? No problem!

After school, he began working at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital as a manager in the neurotrauma unit. He loved working with the “smart, talented, compassionate” ICU nurses, but saw a gap in knowledge transfer from them to the medical students training at the hospital. He saw an educational movement toward advanced practice nurses, particularly acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP), and began to consider programs. It didn’t take long.

“There were only two, and I chose to go to the University of South Florida,” he says. “I did the coursework and joined the university’s neuroscience department as their first ACNP. One thing about my career from that point on, I was typically the first at some­thing, or very early in its evolution.”

That’s because Roberts is comfortable with a new challenge, and it’s also why he broke ground in other areas of nursing before coming to HCA in 2016. After a couple of years in Florida, a new environment beckoned with the growth of personal digital assistants. He saw how those might work their way into patient care, and thus introduced himself to the concept of nursing informatics.

He studied at Columbia University in New York and worked at New York Presbyterian as he curated his knowledge and experience to blend the worlds of quality patient care, nursing duties and technological advances. Along the way, his vision for big data and nursing got noticed by Dr. Jane Englebright, who Dan says talked to him about their shared goal for the company’s large nursing workforce.

“Now, I am working with Anna­baker Garber, our CNIO, as she creates platforms for nurses to use, and Sammie Mosier, ACNE, as she works to standardize nursing documenta­tion,” he explains. “Those in turn provide me the data, so I can continue to inform nursing science and together, we continue to make nursing care better and more effective.”

The result, he says, is that all the data collected through HCA’s growing and increasingly dynamic learning healthcare system reflects the work of nursing.

“The documentation of patient care, by nurses, is valuable to the science of nursing. I’m here to ensure there is an easy pathway for all we are doing around technology and data capture to inform and benefit the nurses providing bedside care. It is important for them to see the value in the work they do every day, providing excellent patient care.”

Dan Roberts is a registered nurse and assistant vice president of nursing performance management.