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Learn About Nursing Informatics in Healthcare

Higher Education Articles July 25, 2013

As technology changes on an almost daily basis, it is imperative that nurses establish methods for keeping abreast of new developments in the field. They progressively need to learn how to utilize and implement computer literacy and information technology into patient care plans. Specialty programs in informatics have emerged, providing nurses an opportunity to combine their nursing and computer skills for the benefit of their patients.

What does informatics mean?

The term informatics literally means the “study of information.” Any way that information is collected, stored, evaluated and used can be referred to as informatics. It is possible to get an undergraduate or graduate college degree in general informatics. A person can also specialize in different types of informatics, such as nurse informatics, health informatics, medical informatics, and business informatics.

What is nurse informatics?

Nursing informatics has been defined by the University of Illinois at Chicago as “the sub-discipline of health informatics that applies information technology to the skills and work of nurses in healthcare. It integrates the science of nursing, computer technology and information science to enhance the quality of the nursing practice, through improved communication, documentation and efficiency.”

The nurse informatics specialist knows how to use the technological information and make it available in ways that improve the delivery of health care. This is particularly important as insurers and health care delivery systems, including private medical doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies convert their paper records to Electronic Health Records (EHR). The nurse in informatics specialist knows how to assimilate and interpret the records in an efficient, meaningful way.

The question of what is nurse informatics is also answered by noting that the nurse informatics specialist is involved in collecting and organizing data so that it is accessible and usable to health care professionals. EHR are updated in real time as the doctor sees the patient. The radiologist can send x-rays electronically to physicians immediately after the x-rays are taken. The doctor sees the patient without the waiting time that occurred prior to computer technology. Prescriptions are sent through the computer directly to the pharmacist.

The informatics nurse is the analyzer and organizer to see that all these technologies and data sharing is being done appropriately. The nurse must also insure that patient privacy is not compromised as the patient’s EHR become available to more health care professionals.

Immediate accessibility to medical records by emergency room (ER) personnel and pharmacists increases the quality of medical care. Serious medical consequences are avoided with all the patient medical records available. Volumes of records may be included for just one patient. The nurse informatics specialist knows how to assimilate and organize all of the information in a meaningful and useful way. It is one thing to have data in the computer, another thing to know how to access it and utilize it meaningfully when needed.

The primary purpose of nurse informatics is to enhance patient care. Nurses who specialize in informatics develop the most efficient ways of updating data for this purpose.

How to become a nurse informatics specialist?

There are certificate programs as well as graduate degree programs at the master and doctoral levels. The first step to becoming a nurse informatics specialist is to earn a baccalaureate degree in nursing. At least two years of clinical experience is required by most postgraduate programs offering nursing informatics certification or specialized informatics degrees.

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