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What is Nursing informatics and how do you get a start in this exciting field? If you enjoy the science of nursing, you may love Nursing Informatics.

New nurses enjoy a model of care that provides increased quality, safety and efficiency, thanks to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Gone are the paper charts; we practice in an era of electronic health records and electronic prescriptions. (Thank gosh, says this nurse!)

Nursing Informatics

Healthcare is managed, used and shared in a whole new way. In order to properly support these developments, and to continue increasing the quality of patient care, new specialized nursing roles are needed.

What is Nursing Informatics?

Nursing informatics are defined 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,” according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Imagine combining your nursing science with computer science and information science to communicate and manage data. This allows us to advance healthcare, provide high levels of patient care and develop more efficient processes.

Several areas of nursing practice can benefit from the use of nursing informatics. Clinically, this could include technologies and monitoring devices that take measurements and place them directly into a patient’s medical record. Informatics brings solutions like electronic health records, automatic billing and computer-generated client documentation. For nursing administration, this may include cost analysis, quality assurance, communication solutions, and even automatic staff scheduling.

The Role of an Informatics Nurse

Job Description

According to Cheryl Parker, chief nursing informatics officer at PatientSafe Solutions in Dallas, Texas, “Informatics nurses of all levels practice at the intersection of technology and clinical practice,” 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.”

In general, a nursing informatics job will incorporate information technology into clinical environments, such as medical facilities, doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. The nurse will select, customize and offer training on the new technological solutions – and then evaluate and research the effectiveness of same. This will include the development of security and storage methods, training other nurses and managing the medical data.

I’m a little bit of a computer geek. I love it when software is updated, making our job at the bedside easier. I’m frequently looking for faster ways to document, or ways to leverage the latest technology to provide better patient care.  While the informatics nurse isn’t at the bedside, they’re the ones facilitating these changes, updates, training and so forth, behind the scenes.

Educational Requirements and Qualifications

If you’d like to enter the nursing informatics field, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree as well as clinical experience. Many healthcare employers and hospitals are now requiring all registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree.

“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,” said Parker. Over 75% of respondents in the HIMSS 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Study entered the specialty with at least six years of clinical experience. Critical care and medical-surgical nursing were the most common backgrounds, totaling 82% of respondents. Nursing informatics offers additional advancement opportunities with continued education.

To further define the roles, the American Nurses Association’s Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practices explains the difference between an informatics nurse and informatics nurse specialists.  They state that an informatics nurse is “a generalist who has informatics experience but does not have graduate level of education on the subject,” and an informatics nurse specialist has been “formally prepared at the graduate level in informatics or a related field.” Each type of nurse is included in the 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, where almost 2/3 of all respondents had at least a master’s degree education.

Pursuing a Career in Nursing Informatics

The Introduction to Healthcare Informatics course offered at Alvernia University provides a strong foundation in this specialty. Alvernia’s online RN to BSN degree Completion Program prepares students for management-level positions and other nursing specialties, such as nursing informatics. The program offers a convenient and flexible online learning environment, accommodating the personal and work schedules of students. Alvernia also offers a Post-Master’s online DNP Clinical Leadership Program. For more information on nursing informatics, check out What is Nursing Informatics.