Nurses practice in a variety of roles within healthcare organizations, whether they may be public or private, inpatient or outpatient. RNs also may hold non-traditional roles in insurance corporations, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare device manufacturers, or software application vendors.
RNs can practice clinically by providing direct patient care; they can hold management positions; and they can also support clinical nursing and patient care activities, such as the work done by informatics nurses.
What is a nurse informatics specialist, or informaticist? Anywhere clinical nurses are found, informatics nurses can also be found.
All informatics nurses are registered nurses with a clinical background, which is critical to understanding the workflow of clinical nurses as well as the working environment of the various care settings.
There are a number of different types of nurses in the informatics field. The American Nurses Association's (ANA) "Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice" defines an informatics nurse specialist (INS) as an RN who has been "formally prepared at the graduate level in informatics or a related field," and an informatics nurse (IN) as "a generalist who has informatics experience but does not have graduate level education on the subject."
The ANA Scope and Standards of Practice has listed the major functional areas for informatics nurses, which include:
Informatics nurses of all levels practice at the intersection of technology and clinical practice. The discipline of nursing informatics is a well-established specialty that has grown past the point where nurses simply help IT to design electronic health records (EHR).
The nurse informaticists' role has grown into an integral part of healthcare delivery and a differentiating factor in the selection, implementation, and evaluation of health IT that supports safe, high quality, patient-centric care. Consider how much technology is now at the point-of-care. From physiologic monitoring and "smart" IV pumps to barcoded medication administration, technology is everywhere.
Informatics nurses may be involved in evaluating and selecting the technology; determining end-user requirements and customizing functionality; and designing and delivering training.
Today, informatics nurses are also serving as leaders in policy and standards organizations.
Research is another big area for informatics nurses. A lot of the research done by nurse informaticists is used by vendors in their development of new technologies.
Having an informaticist makes a huge difference in an IT project, because somebody has to act as a liaison between the technical and clinical communities.
That’s why there’s such an increase in demand for nurse informatics specialists; it takes an informaticist to understand and translate the clinical needs into a technology function and vice versa.
If you're a nurse informaticist, tell us how you got involved with the specialty.