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Informatics Offers Career Path for Nurses Interested in Technology

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In the 1800s, Florence Nightingale gathered and analyzed health data, and was known as the passionate statistician. She could be called the first informatics nurse. Data collection was conducted differently in her time than most healthcare institutions in 2017. But, like informatics nurses (IN) today, Florence Nightingale advocated for patient safety and better patient outcomes (Rehmeyer, 2013.)

When modern healthcare workers (including many nurses) think about an informatics nurse, they automatically think of electronic health records and data entry. The role of an informatics nurse in practice is much broader. The American Nurses Association (ANA) Informatics Scope and Standards of Practice define an informatics nurse as the following:

“Nursing informatics (NI) is 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. NI supports nurses, consumers, patients, the interprofessional healthcare team, and other stakeholders in their decision-making in all roles and settings to achieve desired outcomes. This support is accomplished through the use of information structures, information processes, and information technology (ANA, 2015.)”

In other words, an informatics nurse is any nurse who uses technology to improve patient outcomes.

As nurses, we are the most frequent user of electronic health records (EHRs), and understand the processes and workflows of everyday patient care. NI positions are not entry-level positions; the nurse must have several years of experience in healthcare, be tech-savvy, and, in many cases, hold a professional degree. There are two ways a nurse can become an informatics nurse. Some nurses start in informatics by showing interest in technology when a facility is preparing to implement an EHR and learn on the job by fulfilling the role of a super-user or trainer. This path earns them the title of Nurse Informaticist. To further their careers, the NI heads back to school for a Master’sof Science in Nursing, such as the Nebraska Methodist College - MSN, Nursing Informatics degree, and/or gets certified to; becoming a Nurse Informatics Specialist.

Depending on interests and experience, Informatics Nurses (an NI) may work in a variety of settings: hospitals, clinics, educational institutions, consulting firms, insurance companies, public health organizations, research labs, and a variety of medical software vendors, such as NEHII, EPIC, and Cerner. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2009, informatics nurses are also in demand to interpret Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) Meaningful Use guidelines by working for consulting companies. The guidelines require facilities to document patient care in a certified EHR with the goal of improved patient outcomes.

So, if you are interested in expanding your role as a nurse and have a knack for technology, many avenues will lead you to the realm of Nursing Informatics.

This article was originally published on the Nebraska Chapter of HIMSS website.

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Topics: health professions, nursing

About the Author

Deb Adams, Assistant Professor, MSN, MSHS, RN-BC

Assistant Professor Deb Adams has 20+ years of nursing experience in both civilian and military settings. Throughout her nursing career, she has been involved in informatics in numerous environments. Her first experience with informatics was teaching an electronic health record (EHR) in a hospital setting within two years of licensure. In an outpatient surgery environment, she was involved in the collection and analysis of data for legal, regulatoryand quality purposes. As an Air Force officer, she was a member of a Beta testing team for the military EHR Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) for both stateside and mobile application of AHLTA for deployed medical units. Most recently, her role as an informatics nurse specialist has included responsibility for workflow analysis for a local health system during implementation, testing and upgrades of EHRs. She has developed, implemented and delivered EHR training material for hospital staff and consumers. Assistant Professor Adams has led a team in achievement of MU Stage 1 & 2 through EHR documentation in a hospital and first-time successful accomplishment of PQRS in the clinics. In addition, she has facilitated implementation of a patient portal working with the community. The myriad of areas worked allowed Assistant Professor Adams to relate to interdisciplinary teams improving EHRs utilization and increasing positive patient outcomes. During her years of working in informatics, she developed a passion for teaching informatics and recently joined the NMC team. At NMC, Assistant Professor Adams is the core coordinator of the MSN Informatics track.