Nursing informatics is a relatively new specialty within the health care industry, fueled by the increased incorporation of technology into medical care. Nurse informaticists have training and experience in both patient care and computer science. They draw from both of these fields to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the strategies and tools health care providers use; improving the health care experience for both nurses and patients.
Demand for Nursing Informatics
In 2009, Congress passed a bill ordering medical facilities to transition to an electronic health records system as a condition of receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments. Recent natural disasters have also demonstrated the need for electronic records. With the paper records destroyed, health care providers had no way to access vital medical records for patients in need of urgent care. As computers have become more commonplace and relied upon in a medical setting, health care facilities have placed greater importance on hiring professionals who understand the link between the two.
Where Nurse Informaticists Work
Nurse informaticists work not only in hospitals, but also in the corporate and industrial sectors and academia. They also work in every aspect of health care, including acute care, home health and long-term care. Some primarily teach, training both aspiring and current nurses how to more effectively use technology and computers. Others take on administrative roles, such as chief information officer, where they oversee technology for an entire medical facility.
Typical Job Duties
Rather than provide hands-on, direct patient care, nurse informaticists work behind-the-scenes to improve the overall health care experience and make things easier for the nurses at the bedside. For example, they might work with the hospital’s IT department and the nursing staff to streamline the electronic health records system. At some organizations, they play a technical role. For example, they may set-up and troubleshoot the equipment patients use at home to record health-related information and transmit it to their health provider.
Education and Training
While nurse informaticists merge nursing care and technology, they usually come from a nursing background. They typically start out as registered nurses and later return to school to pursue a graduate degree in a technological field, such as computer science or information technology. Some universities, such as Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, offer graduate degrees in nursing informatics. Students in these programs take both technology-related courses and classes focusing on project management and nursing outcomes.