For many decades, nurses’ roles were narrowly defined: support one or more attending physicians by providing hands-on care such as administering medications, dressing wounds, managing intravenous lines, and monitoring patients’ conditions.
Technology has recently transformed the entire health care system with data from electronic medical records, computerized coding, and streamlined communications. The growing field of nursing informatics bridges the divide between this influx of data and the needs of patients. Hospitals and other medical facilities now require trained professionals who understand both medicine and tech at an advanced level.
Merging Nursing with Data
According to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), nursing informatics is the combination of nursing with new information and communication technologies.
The main mission of a nursing informatician? To achieve patient-centered care and optimal health outcomes through the efficient management of data and technical systems. Using data, an informatics nurse can analyze trends, monitor for errors in consistency, and implement new, more efficient systems. In other words, informatics—the study of the structure, behavior, and interactions of natural and engineered computational systems—brings advanced technology to the daily work of nurses.
According to All Nursing Schools (ANS), an online platform that connects 25 million aspiring nurses with a range of educational opportunities, nursing informaticians work with patient data and computer systems. They link clinical nurses and IT staff, reporting feedback on new technology from those who are using it each day. Nurse informaticians may also be responsible for tasks such as quality control, systems development, and the training of clinical staff.
A Range of Duties
With skills in both nursing and technology, a nurse informatician serves as an essential bridge between clinical staff and technical advancement, according to ANS.
A 2017 survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society reveals that hospitals are the most common employer for nursing informaticians, with 40 percent of job responsibilities falling under the category of systems implementation.
Most informaticians possess strong clinical nursing backgrounds, so they are best-positioned to train additional medical staff on how to implement new tools, technology, and procedures with a user-friendly and practical approach.
For example, a nurse informatician might teach a team of medical-surgical nurses how to use a new electronic medication dispensing system. Once the training is completed, the informatician would then be a point of contact for all questions and concerns that arise as the system is adopted.
The ANS lists these additional, common daily tasks for nursing informaticians, which may include:
- Tracking the success of quality initiatives
- Project management
- Analyzing clinical statistics
- Optimizing system performance
- Writing policies
Nursing informaticians can also play widely varied and influential roles in the administration of health care more broadly.
For example, the AMIA describes many common areas of focus for nurse informaticians, who can serve not only as developers of communication and information technologies, but also as educators, researchers, chief nursing officers, chief information officers, software engineers, implementation consultants, policy developers, and business owners:
- Developing standards to support evidence-based practice, research, and education
- Defining data and communication standards for interoperable national data infrastructure
- Designing research methodologies to disseminate new knowledge into practice
- Retrieving the latest medical research and presenting it to care providers to support safe patient-centered care
- Trouble-shooting communication and informational workflows to optimize communication across all care venues
- Managing the development, design, and implementation of new communication and information technology
- Redefining health care policy to advance the public’s health
Because of this broad influence in determining how new technologies get implemented in health care settings, nursing informaticians play a key role in improving patient care and designing and developing new digital technologies for health care data management and communication. Nursing informatics is among the fastest-growing nursing specialties, and informaticians play an increasingly crucial part in implementing new technologies across the health care system.