One of the biggest buzzwords in nursing today is informatics, a result of the increasing use of technology in all aspects of health care. In a general sense, nursing informatics involves marshalling and organizing technological resources and data to support and promote evidence-based, efficient, and effective care. The American Nursing Association defines it as “the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information management and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.”
Government initiatives supporting the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and studies showing how clinical information systems can improve patient outcomes have illustrated the benefits of technology. But for the technology to be effective, someone needs to understand it — as well as the details of health care and nursing — to ensure that systems are designed and implemented to effectively support the specific demands of nursing.
Nurse informaticists support this effort by connecting nursing, information science, and information technology. They help ensure that technology systems are designed and implemented to effectively support nursing requirements, procedures and goals. Nursing informatics also uses data optimization to advance research and findings that add to evidence-based practice. Ultimately, nursing informatics can improve the delivery of more effective patient care and cut down on costs through the efficient and standardized collection and analysis of clinical and financial data.
Nurses who do well in informatics are usually tech-savvy, with a knack for not only grasping but also seeing the possibilities of new applications and systems. These individuals usually have:
- Highly developed analytical and critical thinking skills
- Clinical experience
- An understanding of patient care delivery workflow
- Project management skills
In addition, nurse informaticists may be responsible for educating nurses how to use systems as well as tweaking and maintaining systems as necessary, so good teaching and software skills are also key.
Education and Certification
Nurses who are interested in informatics have a variety of educational choices. Studies in informatics are integrated into many nursing programs, such as the online Master of Science in Nursing at the University of Saint Mary. The online course NU 611 Informatics in Nursing provides MSN students at the University with a comprehensive overview of this field so they can start to apply informatics concepts at work and to overall nursing strategies.
Further education may include a graduate certificate program in nurse informatics. Certification (RN-BC) is offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), where some of the requirements include continuing education, practice hours, and formal study at the graduate level.
Career Paths in Nurse Informatics
Informatics can be pursued as an informal area of practice among nurses with a particular interest in technology and data, but there are also plenty of career opportunities for those interested in making it their full-time job. Some potential job titles in this area are:
- Clinical analyst • Informatics nurse specialist
- Director of clinical informatics
- Clinical informatics coordinator
According to a 2014 national survey of nurse informaticists by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the average salary of respondents was $100,717, making this one of the higher-paid specialties in the nursing field. Most respondents reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their work.
Interestingly, when asked about barriers they faced in their jobs, most nurse informaticists in the survey pointed to a lack of administrative support and a lack of staffing—suggesting that health care organizations have not yet recognized the importance of this role. However, as more data continues to require more information management, the value of nurse informatics will become increasingly clear.
HIMSS 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, available at www.himss.org
“Nursing Informatics: Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice,” 2nd Edition, American Nurses Association, www.nursingworld.org
Nursing Informatics, American Medical Informatics Association, https://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics