An Introduction to Nursing Informatics
Nursing informatics is a newcomer to the world of nursing practice, formalized by the American Nurses Association as recently as 1994. This rapidly developing specialty, though multidisciplinary in nature, has a single prime objective: the timely delivery of high-quality nursing care.
Like a long-anticipated rendezvous, nursing informatics brings together the sciences of nursing, computers and information in order to improve patient outcomes. According to the American Nurses Association, this specialty "facilitates the integration of data, information and knowledge to support patients, nurses and other providers in their decision-making in all roles and settings."
A core belief of nursing informatics is that nursing practice should be evidence-based; that is, nurses can best provide safe, high-quality care when they receive, analyze and communicate data and knowledge through all possible channels.
Why is Nursing Informatics Important?
Thousands of patients a year receive sub-standard care through no fault of the individual providers, simply because their records and charts are not centrally accessible. Imagine that you are providing ongoing care for a patient with a chronic heart condition in a clinic. You have all the relevant data at your fingertips, and any of your colleagues can also access the records to help your patient. So far, so good.
Now, imagine that your patient suffers a heart attack while on vacation on the other side of the country, and is rushed to a local emergency clinic. The emergency care providers are unable to access the electronic records at your clinic and have no choice but to provide treatment without full understanding of the patient's condition, including current medications and most recent diagnoses. Worse yet, the providers may not even realize that their information is incomplete.
Nursing informatics addresses this problem by using cutting-edge technology to create centrally accessible electronic health records for every individual and to set up systems to encourage the sharing of information and knowledge. However, nursing informatics is not just about technology. Information is useless if it is not used properly. Nursing informatics encourages the ongoing education and training of nurses in the following key imperatives:
- High literacy and communication skills
- Up-to-date computer skills
- Understanding where and how to access high-quality resources
- Using advanced research techniques
What Does an Informatics Nurse Do?
Within the field of nursing informatics, there are many sub-specialties. For example, once a nurse has a degree in nursing informatics, he or she might find work as a nurse analyst, a project manager, or a systems analyst. The nursing specialty and particular interests will determine individual responsibilities and privileges. There is a lot of scope for growth and promotion in this field.
Good informatics nurses collaborate well with others and can maintain a clear focus on long-term goals for the good of the organization and for the improved safety of patients. Whatever their specific roles might be, informatics nurses often act as interpreters between information technology technicians, management professionals, and clinicians, so they need to keep a cool head and have excellent communication skills.
Every nurse who wants to offer the highest-quality patient care should have a basic understanding of nursing informatics and should seek to improve his or her mastery of the key imperatives mentioned above. If you've been practicing as an RN for at least two years, consider qualifying for the Informatics Nurse Certification Exam, offered by the American Nurses Association. This certification looks great on your resume and can lead to a pay raise, not to mention providing you with valuable skills.
How Can You Become an Informatics Nurse?
If you're interested in becoming an informatics nurse, start by exploring nursing degree programs. Accredited online nursing programs provide an excellent way to earn your advanced nursing degree while immediately integrating your new skills with your current position. Nursing informatics is a rapidly evolving field, so the types of programs available are quite diverse in their approach. Certain programs focus on giving you a strong foundation in the basics of nursing informatics, while others require you to choose a sub-specialty early on. Whatever your goals might be, a strong knowledge of nursing informatics will give you a leg up in your nursing career, help improve your patients' care, and reveal unimagined possibilities in the future of nursing practice.