Being successful in the field of Nursing Informatics takes a combination of different skills. Clinicians already have many of these skills, but there are several that she or he will still need to develop as well. Here is a run-down of some of the most important ones:
CLINICAL EXPERIENCE AND COMPETENCE
Clinical experience is the foundation of a clinician’s effectiveness in the Informatics field stands. A nurse who transitions to the Informatics field must first of all have an adequate amount of clinical experience, preferably in a variety of settings, in order to be able to analyze and decide with confidence how certain technical functionality can be applied in the clinical setting. The Informatics nurse is often designated, and expected, to be the bridge between the clinical and technical world, and speak the language of each fluently. It would be very difficult for an Informatics Nurse to “talk the talk” of clinicians, if he or she has not had sufficient clinical experience.
Without this base of experience, a nurse can only theorize and imagine the impact of technology at the bedside. This is not to say that some nurses with very little experience will not be successful in the Informatics field, because there are examples of such professionals. However, those nurses are rare and they have other skills and knowledge that balance their lack of experience. However, for the vast majority, a solid background in the clinical setting, and competence in the basics of related workflows, helps ensure future success in the Informatics arena.
CRITICAL THINKING, ANALYSIS, AND PROBLEM-SOLVING
The unique value that a clinician brings to any Nursing Informatics role is his or her experience in patient care. Because of that, a clinician is expected to be able to think through problems or issues and analyze them based on this wealth of knowledge and experience. They are expected not only to understand and accept technical functionality, but to analyze and even sometimes question the validity of the functionality, in light of their knowledge of clinical workflows, best practices, and regulatory standards.
While an Informatics Nurse may not be the technical expert of a project team, by the nature of the work she or he is expected to have some kind of technical aptitude. Informatics nurses should be able to perform their own analysis and offer suggestions to resolve issues, and this is more effective when they have a certain store of training, experience, and understanding of how certain technical functionality works. As the liaison between the clinical end-users and the more technical members of the team, informatics nurses are expected to be able to wrap their head around technical functionality and limitations. They are also expected to know how to use business productivity tools such as document-creation software, spreadsheets, email systems, and project tracking tools, among others.
BUSINESS CORRESPONDENCE SKILLS
One of the things that an Informatics Nurse will need to do on a daily basis is write and answer emails. Clinicians must remember that business correspondence is different from personal correspondence, and take the necessary steps to learn the basics of business communication.
The main thing to remember with business correspondence is to always be professional. This may sound very easy and common-sense, but it is a business etiquette rule that many professionals break at one time or another. Being professional means always being careful with an email’s tone, and to aim to be respectful and cordial even in stressful or emotionally charged situations. One rule of thumb is to never put in a business email anything that can be damaging when forwarded, either intentionally or unintentionally. This also includes avoiding sarcasm at all cost, because on email it is often very difficult to identify this communication mode, and it can often be misunderstood and taken literally. Avoid writing all capitals, which in email is generally considered shouting – even when the intention was simply to emphasize a point, that may not be what comes across to the recipient(s).
From nursing school, most nurses are taught that interpersonal skills are some of the most important skills clinicians can have, right up there with clinical competence. Nurses are trained and expected to care, not just perform procedures, create plans, or implement orders. The interpersonal skills that a clinician develops when dealing with patients and their families, as well the the other members of the healthcare team, are very useful and highly portable into the Nursing Informatics field. This includes the ability to listen actively and with empathy, collaborate proactively, and negotiate assertively.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS
As mentioned in another post, project management skills are important in any Nursing Informatics role. It doesn’t matter whether your title has the phrase “project management” in it or not – at some point most Informatics Nurses will be called on to be part of projects, and having the necessary project management skills will be advantageous whether they are a team member or a team lead.
Fortunately, the Project Management process is very similar to the Nursing Process. The main difference is most probably in the tools being used – while nurses use the care planning tools and methods to initiate, execute, and evaluate a plan of care, Informatics Nursing professionals may use a variety of business productivity tools to perform the same process.
(This post was originally published in March 2012, and is occasionally updated. Last update: July 2018)