by Kathleen Hunter, Ph.D., R.N.-B.C. and Toni Hebda, Ph.D., R.N. Minority Nurse Writer
Computer nurse, IT nurse, techie nurse. These are some of the titles nurses specializing in informatics have recently acquired and might still be using. However, nursing informatics is about more than just understanding computers and technology.
Nurses—whether a charge nurse or a nurse informaticist—need access to their patients' health histories. Nursing informatics so influential is that, now, nurses are able to pull all of that information together in a more streamlined way through computers, which is quicker, more organized, and more comprehensive. Transitions to computer systems are happening everywhere: hospitals, education and clinical labs, physicians' offices, emergency rooms, operating rooms, and other health care settings.
Informatics integrates nursing science, computer science, and information technology to help nurses more effectively acquire, store, retrieve, and use the mass quantities of data critical for them to properly do their job.
Informatics has become an important specialty for various reasons. At the forefront, the increasingly complex health care system continues to necessitate technological advances and more electronic data. At the same time, health care professionals are assuming expanding roles, and the depth and breadth of knowledge for which they're held responsible demands full access to patients' health histories in real time. With instant access to patient information, nurses spend less time documenting and processing the data and more time providing direct care to their patients.
Nurse infomaticists career outlook
With the approval of the HITECH Act in 2009 and funding towards adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR) technology, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT anticipates that 50,000 new health information technology jobs will be created within the next five years. Additionally, the overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22% from 2008–2018, with most of that growth resulting from technological advances in patient care, according to the National Employment Matrix provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So, what are these tens of thousands of future nurse informaticists capable of? They can, and likely will, do the following:
Make the transition to a technologically advanced health care system smoother, more efficient, and safer for nurses and patients.
Design information systems that optimize practitioner decision-making.
Develop and troubleshoot tools for consumer health care, such as health-related websites, homecare management systems, remote monitoring, wearable monitoring devices, and telenursing.
Promote health literacy through the design and development of tools and devices that bring health information to diverse populations.
Engage in local and national policy debates over the need for more advanced health information technology.
Since nursing informatics is a specialized discipline, and information technology continues to improve the health care industry, the current salary outlook for informaticists climbs higher than that of traditional nurses. Moreover, the salaries of nursing informaticists reported in 2011 increased 16% over salaries in 2007, according to the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society 2011 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey.
If you're considering a career as a nurse informaticist, whether in a clinical, administrative, or academic setting, be proud that you'll be working in one of the most technologically advanced professions in the health care industry, an industry that becomes more important with each passing day.
Join us for our next column on how to become a nurse informaticist.