What Is Nursing Informatics And What Do Informatics Nurses Do?

by | Oct 19, 2021 | Nursing, Nursing Informatics | 0 comments

The past 18 months have been replete with story after story of nurse understaffing and burnout. A study reported that half of the healthcare workers are suffering from burnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]Prasad, K., McLoughlin, C., Stillman, M., Poplau, S., Goelz, E., Taylor, S., … Sinsky, C. A. (2021). Prevalence and correlates of stress and burnout among U.S. healthcare workers during the … Continue reading Social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit are seeing increasing numbers of nurses posting about burnout. As a result, many nurses are looking for opportunities to move away from the bedside while still utilizing their nursing skills and knowledge. Before the pandemic, one author described nursing informatics as “a refuge for nurses in the throes of burnout.” Nurse.org lists nursing informatics as number one on its list of 10 ideas for Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs. Nurse.org also lists nursing informatics at number 12 on their 15 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs in 2021, with an average salary of $80,265. It’s no wonder that nurses are expressing an interest in learning more about nursing informatics.

What is nursing informatics, and what exactly does an informatics nurse do? Surprisingly, there are many answers to what informatics nurses do.

The increasing popularity and use of electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) have also sparked a great deal of interest in the field of nursing informatics. So much so that when someone mentions “nursing informatics,” people often automatically assume that it has something to do with EHRs or EMRs.

The good news is that there is a wide variety of jobs and roles for nursing informatics professionals.

Let’s take a closer look at the definition of nursing informatics to see what the term entails.

Nursing Informatics Defined

The ANA’s Nursing Informatics Scope and Standards of Practice, 2nd Edition defines nursing informatics as follows:

Nursing informatics (NI) is the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information 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.

The nursing informatics specialty and its constituent members contribute to achieving the goal of improving the health of populations, communities, groups, families, and individuals. Supporting activities include, but are not limited to, the identification of issues and the design, development, and implementation of effective informatics solutions and technologies within the clinical, administrative, educational, and research domains of practice.

The asterisk note referring to “analytical sciences” states:

A listing of sciences that integrate with nursing informatics includes, but is not limited to: computer science, cognitive science, the science of terminologies and taxonomies (including naming and coding conventions), information management, library science, heuristics, archival science, and mathematics.

Deconstructing the Definition of Nursing Informatics

Let’s break that down. I think that listing out the individual components of the definition makes it easier to see the true breadth of what is covered by the term nursing informatics.

Nursing informatics integrates the following sciences “to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice”:

  • Nursing science
  • Computer Science
  • Cognitive Science 
  • The science of terminologies and taxonomies, including naming and coding conventions
  • Information Management
  • Library science
  • Heuristics
  • Archival science
  • Mathematics

The goal of nursing informatics is to improve the health of:

  • Populations
  • Communities
  • Groups
  • Families
  • Individuals

And nursing informatics hopes to achieve this goal by:

  • Identifying issues in informatics solutions and technologies, and
  • Designing, developing, and implementing effective informatics solutions and technologies

Within the following domains of practice:

  • Clinical
  • Administrative
  • Educational 
  • Research

While one can apply the above concepts to work on EHRs and EMRs, a wide range of jobs can be considered nursing informatics roles.

A Sampling of Nursing Informatics Job Titles and Roles

Let’s look at a small sample of some of the roles and job titles that one could work in as an informatics nurse during their career.

Possible nursing informatics job titles and roles include:

  • Informatics Nurse
  • Nursing Informatics Specialist
  • Systems Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Educator
  • Programmer
  • Consultant
  • Clinical Analyst
  • Researcher
  • Manager of an IT team
  • Director of Nursing Informatics
  • Quality Informatics Nurse Specialist
  • Entrepreneur

Informatics nurses are also making their way into executive positions. 

The Guthrie Clinic in Pennsylvania recently named an RN as their Chief Informatics Officer (CIO)!

Nurses “comprise the largest component of the healthcare workforce, are the primary providers of hospital patient care and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care.” [2]Nursing Fact Sheet. (2019, April 1). American Association of College of Nursing. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Fact-Sheets/Nursing-Fact-Sheet When congress passed legislation in the late 2000s mandating meaningful adoption of EHRs, the role of Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO) arose to ensure that nurses had a voice in the strategic planning of EHRs and other healthcare information technology.

I highly recommend reading the American Nursing Informatics Association The Role of the Chief Nursing Informatics Officer: Position Statement of the American Nursing Informatics Association Board of Directors to learn more about this relatively new and exciting nursing informatics role.

As an informatics nurse, you can be anything from an entry-level informatics analyst to a C-suite executive!

Examining a Non-EHR Nursing Informatics Role

So what kind of work would an informatics nurse not working with an EHR do?

I can speak to my experience with nurse staffing and scheduling. I managed a team of 4 non-nursing analysts in supporting our nurse staffing and scheduling system. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the definition of nursing informatics and how it applied to how I managed and guided my team.

  • Nursing Science influenced my team’s work because I understood the importance and impact of understaffing on a variety of quality, safety, and financial metrics. [3]Twigg, D. E., Gelder, L., & Myers, H. (2015). The impact of understaffed shifts on nurse-sensitive outcomes. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(7), 1564–1572. … Continue reading
  • I extensively used Computer Science concepts to guide my team in creating, maintaining, modifying, and developing data and technology solutions in and around our nurse staffing and scheduling system.
  • I leveraged Cognitive Science in my team’s educational approaches to user training and communications about system changes. [4]Cognitive science approaches in the classroom – A review of the evidence. (2021, July). The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Retrieved from … Continue reading
  • Nursing budgets and nurse staffing and scheduling each have specific Terminology and Taxonomies that managers and users must understand to configure and manage the system and educate users effectively. 
  • I expected my team to use Information Management tools, techniques, and knowledge to identify the need for, develop, and distribute data and reports to end-users. [5]AIIM. (n.d.). What is Information Management? Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM). Retrieved from https://www.aiim.org/What-is-Information-Management
  • When analyzing and monitoring data and reports, Heuristics often clued us in that we needed to do more analysis to determine if we needed to understand a new problem or trend. [6]Decision-Making Shortcuts: The Good and the Bad. (2015, January 15). NEJM Knowledge+. Retrieved from https://knowledgeplus.nejm.org/blog/decision-making-shortcuts-good-bad/
  • When structuring our reporting archive, we used the Archival Science aspect of Library Science [7]Library science – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_science
  • Nursing budgets and nursing schedules are both mathematical models of available resources. My team and I developed many reports, graphs, and data analyses that required the extensive use of Mathematics and understanding how the different data elements were related as well as which calculations were appropriate.

From a nursing informatics perspective, my goal for my team was to improve nursing care delivery and patient outcomes in our inpatient population by providing nurse managers with the tools, data, education, and information to produce the most effective nursing schedule with the available resources. We sought to achieve these goals by identifying issues in existing information technology and by designing, developing, and implementing effective informatics solutions and technologies. Our work spanned and influenced the clinical, administrative, and educational domains of practice.

That’s just one of many stories of what informatics nurses do.

Please let me know if you would like to submit a guest post to the blog to inform and educate readers on what you do as an informatics nurse.

References

References
1 Prasad, K., McLoughlin, C., Stillman, M., Poplau, S., Goelz, E., Taylor, S., … Sinsky, C. A. (2021). Prevalence and correlates of stress and burnout among U.S. healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national cross-sectional survey study. EClinicalMedicine35, 100879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.100879
2 Nursing Fact Sheet. (2019, April 1). American Association of College of Nursing. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Fact-Sheets/Nursing-Fact-Sheet
3 Twigg, D. E., Gelder, L., & Myers, H. (2015). The impact of understaffed shifts on nurse-sensitive outcomes. Journal of Advanced Nursing71(7), 1564–1572. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.12616
4 Cognitive science approaches in the classroom – A review of the evidence. (2021, July). The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Retrieved from https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Cognitive_science_approaches_in_the_classroom_-_A_review_of_the_evidence.pdf
5 AIIM. (n.d.). What is Information Management? Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM). Retrieved from https://www.aiim.org/What-is-Information-Management
6 Decision-Making Shortcuts: The Good and the Bad. (2015, January 15). NEJM Knowledge+. Retrieved from https://knowledgeplus.nejm.org/blog/decision-making-shortcuts-good-bad/
7 Library science – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_science

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