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Nurse Informaticist’s Role and Opportunities

Nursing Informatics and the Nurse Informaticist

Today, there is a number of healthcare specialties that improve technically gifted people’s ability to contribute to the quality of care, patient safety, and positive treatment outcomes. Nursing informatics is among these relatively new and rapidly growing fields of study. In general, it can be defined as the application of the principles of information engineering to clinical care and facilitating the use of technology by clinical specialists. Nursing informatics is a bit different from healthcare informatics since the latter does not place emphasis on patient care and primarily refers to the use of information technology in solving administrative issues rather than improving clinical care.

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Next, the nurse informaticist’s role involves improving care providers’ access to information technology and their ability to use innovative systems to propel care quality to the next level. Most importantly, it is the role of these specialists to support effective collaboration between the clinical staff and information technology departments by communicating with the users of new health information systems and reporting their feedback to IT teams (Tyler, 2019). Next, nurse informaticists’ role involves providing the necessary education to the users of health systems to keep them updated on any planned changes to the features and characteristics of EHR systems and how such innovations will impact their experiences and workplace duties (Tyler, 2019). Apart from that, nurse informaticists apply their technology-related knowledge and strong analytical thinking skills to initiate and support performance improvement projects and keep track of such projects’ success.

Nurse Informaticists and Other Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations’ experiences with nurse informaticists are primarily positive since such specialists’ assistance can contribute to staff members’ technology literacy and make EHR systems more user-friendly. As an example, there is evidence that the presence of nurse superusers is positively related to EHR projects’ success and end-users’ engagement in change (Tyler, 2019). Although nursing informatics competencies are regarded as critical, graduate nurses often demonstrate inadequate IT knowledge, which can add to organizations’ willingness to implement the role of a nurse informaticist (Peltonen et al., 2019). Consequently, healthcare organizations may regard nurse informaticists as a valuable workforce resource that effectively transfers IT knowledge to care specialists.

To fulfill their responsibilities, nurse informaticists are expected to actively interact with other nurses and the interdisciplinary teams, and this interaction usually takes the form of scheduled meetings. Such meetings are typically interprofessional, and nurse informaticists or managers act as leaders and create an atmosphere of mutual respect, thus encouraging all participants to voice any concerns related to currently used EHR systems or ask for additional explanations (Tyler, 2019). During such meetings with the end-users of EHR systems, nurse informaticists may act as educators and demonstrate some potentially beneficial system improvement options to the clinical staff, which enables them to form individual opinions and contribute to collaborative decision-making (American Nursing Informatics Association, 2018; Tyler, 2019). Continuing on collaboration, nurse informaticists often interact with other nurses by making observations and conducting staff interviews (Tyler, 2017). It helps them to assess the degree to which nurse practitioners’ IT knowledge is compatible with the proper use of EHR solutions and their opportunities.

Impact of Full Nurse Engagement in Health Care Technology

By engaging nurses (the end-users) in healthcare technology, nurse informaticists can impact patient care in an indirect manner. During the stage of system planning and analysis, they collect information on end-users’ needs, issues, and preferences, thus contributing to the implementation of user-friendly healthcare IT solutions (Tyler, 2016). Better usability can reduce mistakes in using the functions of EHR systems, such as accessing data on potential drug interactions, which minimizes the risks of providing care based on incomplete information about the patient. Therefore, health informaticists’ efforts can support care improvement in clinical settings.

Next, the development of strategies to engage nurses in healthcare technology is widely regarded as a positive practice. Nevertheless, the proclaimed benefits of implementing a nurse informaticist role do not always find support in experimental research. Regarding protected health information, modern EHR systems typically demonstrate strong security features. With that in mind, by supporting the implementation of modern systems and educating nurses on how to use them, nurse informaticists can actually contribute to privacy, confidentiality, and data security (Tyler, 2019).

The example of Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System demonstrates that additional tools implemented within hospitals’ EHR systems decrease the time that nurses need to document patient information and make referrals to other specialists, thus improving hospital clinical workflows (Nelson, 2019). Nurse informaticists can facilitate the development of such tools by collecting and analyzing data on users’ experiences, which is why their participation can help to better coordinate the activities of nurses and medical professionals. Unfortunately, there is limited knowledge regarding how nurse informaticists’ participation affects healthcare costs and ROI (Nelson, 2019). In the short-term perspective, these specialists’ attempts to give consideration to end-users’ expectations from IT tools can probably incur extra costs. However, the long-term effects of their activities on hospitals’ cost recovery from investments in new tools are still to be studied.

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Opportunities and Challenges

The addition of a nurse informaticist role involves multiple opportunities for nurses and interdisciplinary teams. For instance, nurses will benefit from this new role by gaining access to staff education on how to use technology to maximize benefits for patients. Next, the majority of nurse informaticists work in clinical settings prior to shifting to this new role (Nelson, 2019). Thanks to these experiences, they are able to provide practice-oriented education to other nurses instead of simply explaining the technological features of new and updated tools. For the interdisciplinary team, the key benefits of the new role include being able to collaborate with IT teams and, importantly, having a “representative” to report their expectations and issues to other IT professionals. As for the barriers, the nurse informaticist is a relatively young specialty, which is why the process of distributing responsibilities between these specialists and other team members can be challenging at times (Nelson, 2019). Apart from these temporary challenges, the addition of this role seems to be beneficial to different healthcare providers.

With the help of nurse informaticists, interdisciplinary teams can collaborate to improve care quality through technology. For instance, nurse informaticists support such collaboration by gathering multidisciplinary teams together and encouraging them to evaluate the proposed patient data management tools and share their experiences (Tyler, 2019). As a result, the representatives of different professions interact to facilitate the selection of the best tools that can prevent mistakes and improve care quality outcomes.

Summary of Recommendations

To sum it up, one of the critical benefits of adding a nurse informaticist role is the opportunity to fill in nurses’ and other professionals’ gaps in IT knowledge by offering focused staff education and training. Apart from that, the organization can be recommended to implement this role since nurse informaticists facilitate collaboration and the exchange of information between IT departments in hospitals and those directly involved in patient care. Finally, nurse informaticists’ activities can help to increase the usability of patient data management tools, thus reducing the risks of mistakes and promoting patient safety.

References

American Nursing Informatics Association. (2018). Inclusion of interprofessional terminology standards in electronic health records. 

Nelson, T. J. (2019). Nursing informatics: The EHR and beyond. American Nurse Today, 14(3), 36-38.

Peltonen, L. M., Nibber, R., Lewis, A., Block, L., Pruinelli, L., Topaz, M.,… Ronquillo, C. (2019). Emerging professionals’ observations of opportunities and challenges in nursing informatics. Nursing Leadership, 32(2), 8-18.

Tyler, D. D. (2016). A day in the life of a nurse informaticist: The nursing process. Journal of Informatics Nursing, 1(2), 29-31.

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Tyler, D. D. (2017). A day in the life of a nurse informaticist: Working on quality and performance improvement initiatives. Journal of Informatics Nursing, 2(3), 41-43.

Tyler, D. D. (2019). A day in the life of a nurse informaticist: Super users. Journal of Informatics Nursing, 4(1), 18-20.

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