The official definition for nursing informatics is the “science and practice (that) integrates nursing, its information, and its knowledge with management of information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families, and communities worldwide” (IMIA Special Interest Group on Nursing Informatics 2009).
In general terms, the nurse will use his or her nursing skills to implement and support technological advances, clinical practices, nursing policies and program developments. The informatics nurse may help select the best products for an institution, train the nurses on how to use new equipment, assist with the development of electronic medical records, or aid in the collection of mass amounts of data to positively impact patient outcomes or identify troubling trends which require immediate interventions.
Training in Nursing Informatics
All nursing students will have some exposure to the basics of nursing informatics during their initial training programs. If you are interested in specializing in nursing informatics, there are certificate and graduate level programs available. It is important that you first practice as a nurse for a few years so that you can have a strong clinical background and understanding of direct patient care and documentation.
Deciding if Nursing Informatics is Right for You
Before investing more time and money in additional training, you may want to see if you are intrigued by a particular nursing specialty. One way to do this is by becoming involved on a project at your current place of employment. The nursing informatics nurses often work directly with the bedside nurse to truly understand the current necessities and how they can implement positive practices and policies. Many opportunities are available and can be identified either by your manager, institutional committees, or by a nurse currently working in the informatics department.
For example, I have been working with the nursing informatics team at my institution to change the current pediatric paper chemotherapy templates into electronic orders. Multiple staff nurses have assisted on this project and their input has been very important. I have now transitioned into a part-time position working on this project as the clinical nurse expert. Since the majority of my responsibilities are computer work, I am able to work some of my hours from home, which has been a real benefit for my family. This was an area that I had not seriously considered working in; however, my clinical expertise and computer skills have allowed me to transition into a different field of nursing, which has been very rewarding. While I do not have direct patient care responsibilities currently, this project will directly impact every patient who requires chemotherapy at our institution. I also have the opportunity to work directly with the nurses and ensure that their recommendations are considered and implemented whenever feasible
Informatics Nursing Certification
As you advance in your nursing career, it is important to consider certification in your specialty. Many institutions will cover the costs of certification and also offer a certification bonus, but more importantly, it demonstrates your expertise in a particular specialty. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers Informatics Nurses an opportunity to become certified once they meet the required eligibility criteria.
As a registered nurse, your career options are endless. You have the many opportunities and should be willing to consider and try different options throughout your nursing career.