How Judy Murphy shattered the glass ceiling

'I always went after what I thought was needed in the job I was in'
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An IT career is not the typical path for women climbing above the glass ceiling. But in hearing Judy Murphy talk about her own journey, a transition from nursing to technology turned out to be the perfect opportunity

“The tradition has been that IT was a male-dominated profession. Women rising through the ranks in IT, particularly in healthcare IT, was rare,” Murphy said.

By focusing on the need to improve clinical systems, she became the VP of EHR Applications at Aurora Healthcare, an integrated delivery network with 15 hospitals and 30,000 employees. From there, she was recruited to the position of Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy in the ONC and was named to the boards of both HIMSS and AMIA.

At HIMSS15 in Chicago, she will talk about her experiences in the presentation “Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Lessons Learned for Aspiring Female Executives” as part of the Views from the Top series.

Murphy’s career began in 1975 as an RN in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After five years as a hospital staff nurse, she was asked to train other nurses. In that job, she saw that the new mainframe lab order-entry system wasn’t meeting the needs of the nursing staff. Raising her voice to get the system fixed, Murphy was noticed by supervisors. Before long, she became part of the design team.

In her first IT department position she was a clinical systems analyst. She would eventually run the department responsible for EHR implementation with responsibility for 200 employees.

Murphy said she never felt limited by gender bias. “The fact that I never perceived a ceiling caused me to forge ahead. I always went after what I thought was needed in the job I was in.”

But that doesn’t mean she was insular. She joined professional societies and volunteered for assignments to a fresh perspective on her own challenges.

“We all get really engaged in our day to day jobs. It can help to stick your head up and look around. Not necessarily to look for a job, but to take your impact and move it outside your job,” she said.

Contributing to both HIMSS and AMIA, she launched some of the early nursing informatics workshops, participated on committees and wrote articles about the intersection of nursing informatics and health IT. Her fulltime job kept her in Wisconsin but the volunteer work brought her attention on the national level and she was appointed to the Health IT Standards Committee in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Soon after, Farzad Mostashari, MD recruited her to the position of Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy.

After 34 years with Aurora in Wisconsin, she is now settled in Washington DC. She recently joined IBM as Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Global Business Services for IBM Healthcare where she is helping other health systems improve their IT solutions and care coordination programs.
Her advice to others in their own professional journey?

“Don’t set boundaries around yourself. I didn’t feel boundaries,” Murphy said. “I just did what I thought was right at the time.”

Murphy's presentation will be on Tuesday, April 14 at 1 pm.

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