The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 supported a new model of care that helped providers move from paper charts to electronic health records, resulting in increased quality, safety and efficiency, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Now, technologies such as electronic health records and electronic prescribing are common.
Healthcare has experienced a shift in the way information is managed, shared and used. To support this development and to further increase the quality of care that patients receive, specialized nurses are needed.
What Is Nursing Informatics?
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines nursing informatics 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.”
Nursing informatics combines nursing science with computer science and information science to manage and communicate data. The field helps develop more efficient processes, advances healthcare and provides a high level of patient care.
Nursing informatics can be applied to several areas of nursing practice. Clinically, informatics involves technologies and solutions like electronic health records, computer-generated client documentation, automatic billing and monitoring devices that take measurements and place them directly into the medical record. In nursing administration, informatics solutions include automatic staff scheduling, cost analysis, communication solutions and quality assurance.
The Role of an Informatics Nurse
“Informatics nurses of all levels practice at the intersection of technology and clinical practice,” said Cheryl Parker, chief nursing informatics officer at PatientSafe Solutions in Dallas, Texas, in HIMSS. “Informatics nurses working at a healthcare facility may be involved in evaluating and selecting the technology; determining end-user requirements and customizing functionality; and designing and delivering training.”
Broadly, an informatics nurse incorporates information technology in clinical settings like hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and medical facilities. In addition to selecting, customizing and performing training on technological solutions, the nurse will research the effectiveness of these solutions. The nurse also develops storage and security methods, trains other nurses on the latest systems and helps manage all medical data.
Educational Requirements and Qualifications
Most informatics nurses will need a bachelor’s degree and clinical experience for entry into the specialty. Hospitals and other healthcare employers are starting to require that all registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree, and this requirement is more common for specialties like critical care and medical-surgical nursing.
“All informatics nurses are registered nurses with a clinical background, which is critical to understanding the workflow of clinical nurses as well as the working environment of the various care settings,” Parker said. More than 75 percent of respondents in the HIMSS 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey had at least six years of clinical experience prior to entering the specialty. The most common background was critical care and medical-surgical nursing, accounting for 82 percent of respondents. There are advancement opportunities in nursing informatics with additional education.
The American Nurses Association’s Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice distinguishes between different types of nurses in the informatics field. An informatics nurse is “a generalist who has informatics experience but does not have graduate level education on the subject,” while an informatics nurse specialist has been “formally prepared at the graduate level in informatics or a related field.” Both types of nurses were included in the 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, with nearly two-thirds of respondents having at least a master’s degree.
Pursuing a Career in Nursing Informatics
Alvernia University’s online RN to BSN degree Completion Program prepares students for management-level positions and specialties in nursing like nursing informatics. The course Introduction to Healthcare Informatics offers a strong foundation in this specialty.
The program takes place in a flexible and convenient online learning environment that accommodates students’ work and personal schedules.