Ep 15: Judy Murphy: Attitude Over Aptitude and her Journey to IBM Chief Nursing Officer

In this episode, we had the honor to chat with Judy Murphy, Chief Nursing Officer for IBM. Judy’s background is in nursing but she shares with us her journey from that career to information technology, and finally to leading IBM’s initiatives in healthcare innovation.

Judy started off in nursing. Computers first moved into nursing stations for simple things such as billing, communications, etc. But Judy started to learn what was and wasn’t happening on the technology development side, and some of it wasn’t always what was needed for nurses. 

“We were doing homegrown development of these applications,” she said. “We rolled things out and learned along the way. But that’s where I started getting interested in the power of what we could do.”

These were mainframe green screens. There was no simple windows interface at the time. How did she make the leap from the hospital world to IBM, one of the “grandfathers” of the computing world?  There was a lot of hospital consolidation during the 80’s and 90’s, and Aurora Healthcare was born. The hospital’s IT Department started growing, though at that time it wasn’t called IT just yet.  Judy joined as a liaison advocating for what technology could do for the clinical side, growing from Staff Analyst to Vice President over 25 years at Aurora Healthcare. 

“It was a pioneering time,” she says, describing the new role she took. There wasn’t much certification or training support, but there was a new and growing industry. One of the most important things she did was to follow the national conversation. She watched organizations like HIMMS to track what could be done with computers and healthcare, and Judy jumped in to engage in the industry. This was instrumental for her career as she grew in IT.

Judy then was put on a federal advisory committee that spoke up for the meaningful use program, part of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. She served for three years in the federal government as the Deputy National Coordinator for the program, then migrated to the Chief Nursing Officer for the federal government (part of the Office of the National Coordinator of IT). It was a really rewarding role for her. But Judy noticed the money was shifting to support other areas. 

New emerging technologies started to intrigue Judy, and she felt called to do something bigger.  IBM recruited her and Judy was extremely excited about what the computer giant could do for healthcare. 

The biggest challenge Judy says for the growth of IBM’s healthcare practice is that the company is still known for their hardware. The computerization of the industry is becoming commonplace, but the industry needs expertise to learn how it can be used. 

IBM is delving into the following two areas: 

● Mobile applications for both patients managing health and healthcare, and enabling the workforce (the nurse). She stresses, in particular,  applications that facilitate workflow efficiency in the hospital and homecare

● Analytics and understanding data and the quality of services provided Judy believes that career success can be attributed to attitude even more than basic aptitude. 

When Judy’s hiring, she’s always looking at a person’s excitement for their work, versus what they know. Judy also values surrounding herself with a team for whom she can foster growth, as part of her own growth. Lastly, she says helping to really pay attention and engage in volunteer work, boards, committees, and other types of activities help to drive her forward. 

In discussing challenges she has faced, Judy observes that throughout her career, IT has been dominated by men. She had to work to demonstrate credibility, because of her gender and her nursing background. 

“That’s very different today. Now, industry expertise is valuable in IT,” she said. “I even created two sets of cards, one listing RN and one without.” 

The top three leadership lessons Judy has for others are: 

● Don’t feel constrained. We’re often our own worst enemies by not speaking up.
● Make sure you position other people to lead with you. Mentor and get together with them, and guarantee their success. 
● Readjust your attitudes and always be humble. 

She leaves us with one last piece of advice: to think about your organization and industry, not just your job. It helps to round out any leader in IT to think about a bigger picture. 

This interview took place at HIMSS 2015. Learn more about HIMMS, and IBM here.

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