What is Nursing Informatics?

Ever since I started talking about transitioning to the field of Nursing Informatics back in 2006, I have been asked many, many questions about it by both nurses and non-nurses:

  • What is nursing informatics?
  • Is it a recognized nursing specialty?
  • Do you have to like working with computers?
  • Does someone have to be techy (meaning, technologically adept) to be in that field?

After I took on a role as part of an EHR implentation team, even more questions came up from friends and acquaintances alike:

  • Do you have to know how to manage projects?
  • Do you have to sit in front of a computer all day?  (This questions seems to be more important to the clinicians who are used to being on their feet and relating with people during the majority of their shift).
  • What is the compensation like?  Did you have to take a pay cut?
  • How does one transition from a clinical role to an informatics/healthcare I.T. role?

This post will attempt to answer the first question: WHAT IS NURSING INFORMATICS?

The official, scholarly definition of Nursing Informatics, as it is practiced in the United States, is as follows:

“Nursing Informatics is a 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.”

*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, heurestics, archival science, and mathematics.

(ANA Scope and Standards of Nursing Informatics Practice, 2nd Edition, 2015, pp. 1 – 2)

To get into even more detail, let’s separate the sentences to get to the main themes, which are:

  • Nursing Informatics is a recognized specialty of nursing
  • It brings together multiple fields of science
  • It involves identifying, defining, managing, and communicating not just data and information, but knowledge and wisdom
  • The goal is to support nurses, consumers, patients, the interprofessional healthcare team, and other stakeholders in their decision-making
  • Information structures, information processes, and information technology are all used to help achieve the goal

For me, the heart of the NI definition is in the second sentence, which states:

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.

I believe that this points to a bigger goal, purpose and meaning to all the work that we do as Nurse Informaticists.  It is not just to complete an informatics or technology-related project such as a bed management system (BMS) or barcoded medication administraton (BCMA), or creating and improving quality improvement (QI) reports, or even leading/participating in implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) for your organization, although these are all noteworthy activities.

It is so much more than that.  It means that our knowledge of the above-mentioned sciences, our skill in analyzing and improving workflows, our ability to create and modify software to improve nursing data management, and our competence in managing projects, are all used for a greater good – to support and empower nurses, patients, other members of the healthcare team and other stakeholders as they make decisions related to their health and their work.

For me, that means that even when we are no longer involved in direct or bedside patient, we still are able to do something that other nurses do everyday – make a difference in someone’s life.

Suggested readings:
HIMSS:  Nursing Informatics 101

Next:

What different roles can you play in the Nursing Informatics field?

Twelve ways to transition to a role in Nursing Informatics