Nursing informatics “integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice,” according to the American Nurses Association. In other words, informatics aims to accomplish the following:
- Identify and collect useful data.
- Organize that data into helpful information.
- Interpret information to broaden knowledge.
- Support ethical and compassionate application of updated knowledge.
The goal is to support consumers, patients, nurses and other providers in making decisions and to promote the health of people, families and communities.
Although informatics is a specialty, as its role increases, all nurses can benefit from understanding the basics of the discipline and how it can improve patient care and nursing practice.
One way for ADN-prepared nurses to study nursing informatics is in a nursing informatics course as part of an online RN-to-BSN program, such as the one available at Colorado Mesa University. This course looks at the use of information systems in healthcare and nursing practice. Current issues in this course include using, designing and implementing healthcare information systems; healthcare information management; decision support; and knowledge management applications. The course also covers the legal and ethical issues related to privacy protection, confidentiality and information security.
Increasing Demand for Informatics
One factor driving the demand for informatics is the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs). These records contain data that, when properly analyzed, can identify ways to improve patient care.
Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs reward hospitals for “meaningful use” of EHRs. The definition of meaningful use includes the following:
- Improving quality, safety and efficiency.
- Reducing health disparities.
- Involving patients and their families.
- Improving the coordination of care.
- Preserving the privacy and security of patient health information.
In addition to improving patient outcomes, nursing informatics can make a staff nurse’s job easier. Nurse.com describes a situation wherein informatics nurses improved the way staff nurses worked. Historically, before transferring patients from one unit to another, nurses wrote instructions and condition summaries by hand. However, much of that information was already in the EHR system. Informatics nurses found a way to digitize the instructions and summaries so the staff nurses could print out the information instead.
Basic Informatics Competencies
The Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) Initiative recommends every practicing nurse have the following informatics competencies:
- Basic computer competencies: understanding information and communication technology and basic computer skills, including managing files, word processing, web browsing and e-communication.
- Information literacy: the ability to identify information for specific needs and correctly apply it in practice.
- Information management: how to collect, process and report on data.
Specializing In Nursing Informatics
For nurses who want to specialize in nursing informatics, the core areas of work, according to the American Medical Informatics Association, are as follows:
- Supporting evidence-based practice, research and education by setting standards and representing concepts.
- Supporting safe, patient-centered care through information presentation and retrieval.
- Distributing new knowledge into nursing practice through research methodologies.
- Setting a vision and managing the development, design and implementation of communication and information technology.
- Building an interoperable national data infrastructure by setting data and communication standards.
- Addressing the needs of inter-professional work flow across care settings using information and communication technologies.
- Defining healthcare policy to improve public health.
Some nurse informaticists develop the technical skills to write software and maintain systems; however, those skills are not a requirement. Many informatics nurses serve as liaisons between clinicians and information technology experts, bringing nursing knowledge to systems development.
Nurses specializing in informatics can fill a variety of roles, including the following:
- Communication and information technology designer.
- Implementation consultant.
- Policy developer.
- Software engineer.
- Chief information officer.
- Chief nursing officer.
Nurses come to informatics from a variety of backgrounds. In the 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, 37 percent of the respondents only had on-the-job informatics training. However, the percentage of respondents who had a post-graduate degree in nursing or other informatics rose by 24 percent between the 2011 and 2014 surveys.
Further, in 2014, the survey found 43 percent of informatics nurses who responded were currently enrolled in some type of informatics education or training. The survey also found 48 percent of respondents held a certification, such as those offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or HIMSS. The average annual salary was $100,717.
The field of nursing informatics is growing, as is the importance of informatics in healthcare. Nurses who keep up with the developments can better serve patients with updated information and integrated technology.
Learn more about Colorado Mesa University online RN to BSN program.
Nursing Informatics: Scope And Standards Of Practice. (2007, September 13). American Nurses Association
Nursing Informatics. (n.d.). AMIA
Frellick, M. (2013, September 16). Demand for informatics nurses on rise. Nurse.com
2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey. (2014, February 22). Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
Shultz, C. M. (2009, April/May). Preparing to Work in an Informatics-Based World. National Center for Biotechnology Information
Informatics Competencies for Every Practicing Nurse: Recommendations from the TIGER Collaborative. (n.d.). Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.