Nursing Informatics: Roles, Qualifications & Opportunities
Rea and her best friend, Lany are talking about what they want to specialize in in the future during study break. “I wanna be a Nurse Midwife,” Rea says and Lany nods in approval. “What about you, what do you want to specialize in?” she asks. “Oh, I want to be a nurse informatics specialist,” Lany says proudly. A nurse informatics specialist, yes, she’d heard about that before, but she’s not really sure about who they are or what they do. What exactly is nurse informatics and what opportunities open up for you when you are part of it?
Nursing Informatics Defined
According to American Nurses Association (ANA), Nursing Informatics is a specialty in nursing that combines nursing science, information science and computer science to distribute and manage data, knowledge and information regarding nursing practice. This is to provide information and knowledge to patients, nurses and other health care providers to be of help in the development of health and is attained with the use of the current trends in information technology that distributes knowledge and information, mainly by social media like the internet and the television.
Informatics came from the french word “informatique” which means computing and was first used as medical informatics during the late 1970s, followed by nursing informatics during the 1980s. The ANA assigned nursing informatics to be a specialty among nurses in 1992, although nurses had already integrated concepts of informatics in an earlier time. Following this trend, a scope and standards for the practice of nursing informatics have been developed by volunteer members of ANA which serves as guides for the specialty. The standards that were created by ANA in 1995 emulate the professional performance that is already common to nurses who practice informatics.
For nurses who are fond of technology and its applications for improving patient care plans, a career in nursing informatics might just be the one for you.
Roles of a Nurse Informatics Specialist
In the clinical area, an informatics nurse can work at a hospital and be recognized as a clinical nurse analyst or a clinical informatics specialist. The nurse’s responsibilities include the following:
- data collection
- creating quality surveys
- designing and managing clinical databases
- outcome reporting
- creating communications using desktop publishing
- evaluating and selecting the technology
- determining end-user requirements and customizing functionality
- designing forms
Meanwhile, nurse analysts have little or no patient contact at all and instead concentrates on the work processes, figuring out how to improve the healthcare process with the use of what the current trend of technology has to offer. The roles of a nurse analyst include:
- Education of clinicians in information system concepts
- educating technical people about health care
Programs are available for the nurses in the field of nursing informatics. Internationally, the University of Maryland in Baltimore started offering the first masters degree in nursing informatics in 1989. The doctorate program, on the other hand, followed in 1992. Other schools also offer a master’s degree in informatics, and also a master’s degree in nursing administration that focuses on nursing informatics.
In the Philippines, programs by the National Telehealth Center are available to enhance our knowledge regarding health informatics. The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Philippine Nursing Informatics Association are currently developing programs and plans to have Nursing Informatics here in the country.
So, if you have a great clinical background and a great familiarity and love of utilizing technology to improve the current state of health, what are you waiting for?
In a world where high technology is rampant, a lot of opportunities await nurse informatics specialists. A career path on nursing informatics can lead to:
- being hired to assist in implementing a nurse documentation system in a specific organization; and
- being hired by the owner of the product to install the application to other organizations or health care centers in the region, or even in the country.
- With enough experience at multiple sites, the specialist in installation of a specific application may then be able to work for a consulting firm that advises clients on how to implement the application or the system that was installed to different organizations.
Specifically, the American Nurses Association in the Scope and Standards of Practice has listed the major functional areas for informatics nurses, which include:
- Administration, leadership and management – either directly with clinical informatics departments or in combination with other functional areas such as serving as project managers
- Analysis – using data to synthesize knowledge, inform decision support, and manage outcomes as well as taxonomies
- Compliance and integrity management – helping make sure organizations are meeting all the national laws and standards such as HIPAA, FDA, Joint Commission, etc.
- Consultation – serving both internally or externally as a resource
- Coordination, facilitation, and integration – serving as the translator between end-users and IT experts
- Development – translating user requirements into solutions
- Education and professional development – ranges from teaching the end-user to use a device or application to educating the next generation of nurses and the general public
- Policy development and advocacy – being an advocate for consumers, hospital units, and the institution as a whole; also helping shape policies and standards at the state, national and organizational level
- Research and evaluation – conducting research in a variety of informatics topics that impacts both caregivers and consumers
Salary for Nursig Informatics Specialists
The salary of a nursing informatics specialist will vary based on a number of factors such as physical location, education, the type of healthcare facility and the exact scope of the job. As this is an emerging field, the U.S. Department of Labor has not yet published salary data for this profession.
In the HIMSS 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the median salary reported for Nurse Informaticists was $93,000. The average salary reported was $100,717.