Nursing Informatics: Vital to the Profession

Technology continues to advance in health care, and this advancement means an ongoing demand for nurse informaticists. Through healthcare technology, nurse informaticists enhance patient outcomes, reduce clinical errors, and provide efficient results in clinical procedures for patients and nursing staff.

Nursing informatics is a popular career path for nurses. But even if you don’t pursue a nursing informatics career — or don’t think you’re computer- or tech-savvy enough to do so — you should understand how informatics impacts you, your colleagues, and your patients.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines nursing informatics as a specialty that identifies, defines, manages, and communicates data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice. The essential elements — data, information, knowledge, and wisdom — encompass the concept of bringing data together in meaningful ways.

According to Susan K. Newbold, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, FHIMSS, FAMIA, Director of the Nursing Informatics Boot Camp available through the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and a speaker for the Nursing Informatics Certification Review course, meaningful ways include:

  • Building information — This process includes taking multiple occurrences of data such as a patient’s vital signs over time and collecting and organizing that information.
  • Creating nursing knowledge — Knowledge is developed after data is transformed into information. For example, if a returning patient has their vital signs taken and an abnormality is detected, such as a low heart rate, healthcare staff members can compare this piece of data to the information compiled in their record. This type of information can indicate that the patient may need further testing.
  • Working toward wisdom — The goal after the development of knowledge is to impart wisdom. This means integrating and applying knowledge with the objective of improving processes and procedures with patient care.

Nursing informaticists aren’t alone in their contributions to this specialty. Nurses and other front-line healthcare providers help drive information technology, including how it ultimately improves patient care, Newbold said. Because these professionals understand patient care needs and optimal workflow as well as working daily to gather and apply data, they also play an important part with nursing informatics.

Choosing a career in nursing informatics

“Nursing informatics is much more than using a computer,” said Newbold.

The specialty integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences, according to the ANA.

A familiar point of interest within nursing informatics — and healthcare informatics in general — is electronic health records.

According to the American Medical Informatics Association, nurse informaticists work as:

  • Developers of communication and information technologies
  • Educators
  • Programmers
  • Project managers
  • Researchers
  • Chief nursing officers
  • Chief information officers
  • Software engineers
  • Implementation consultants
  • Policy developers
  • Healthcare business owners

In these roles, nursing informatics experts are constantly seeking answers to questions regarding data. Newbold described the types of questions these experts often answer:

  • Where do you find needed data?
  • Is the data accurate or not?
  • Is this the right type of data?
  • How do you make the data meaningful and informative?
  • How do you turn the data into nursing knowledge?
  • How do you take the information to make predictions about patients?

“When I started in nursing informatics, we were so busy worrying about …read more

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