Technology and healthcare are two of the most impactful fields of scientific development, acting as pillars and supplementing each other to contribute to an ever-progressing environment. But, while the digital age has made it impossible to not encounter technology, some of the most rudimentary levels of medicine have fallen behind in incorporating technology. From patient records to clinical decisions, technology can be used to create a better, more efficient medical system.
The integration of medical expertise and technological advancements is essential in nursing informatics. This interdisciplinary approach combines nursing practices, patient care, and medical knowledge with computer science, creating an efficient system dedicated to enhancing patient care.
Advantages of incorporating nursing informatics
The aim of nurse informatics is to build a comprehensive system which integrates everything from medical charts to diagnostic reports. This can, in turn, aid in holistic patient care. Nursing informatics can help in the following ways:
- Data organization and accessibility – An automated system with a user-friendly database is hugely efficient in contrast to piles of physical papers and files stacked away in cupboards. Not only does the latter create an accessibility nightmare, but it is also an inefficient way of storing data, especially given the material vulnerability of paper. Instead, accurately entered patient and treatment data can be easily stored digitally and accessed upon demand.
- Evidence-based practice – When data is organized digitally, it is easier to spot treatment plans that have worked and plans that can be improved upon. This can help in developing efficient treatment tools backed by clinically evidenced data. A study published in HIMSS established a significant relationship between informatics practices and evidence-based practices in healthcare. The study concluded that “enhancing nurse’s health informatics literacy is considered to be a determinant factor in improving evidence-based practice in nursing”. In addition, results derived from evidence-based practices can also contribute towards automating certain procedures so as to ensure steady workflow.
- Efficient treatment plans – Treatment plans can also be improved by integrating tech medically. From electronic charts, telemedicine, remote monitoring devices to capsule cameras that can be swallowed to detect cancer early, the possibilities are endless. Standard treatment plans can also be drafted for similar health issues for prompt treatment as well. Organized data can also help in identifying areas of improvement as comparison and analysis is made easier.
- Reduce workload – A lot of administrative procedures can also be automated and integrated into the system so that nurses can focus better on taking care of patients. A study published in the NLM investigating the effects of integrating nursing informatics in promoting quality of healthcare notes that “nursing information system had an influence on clinical patterns and decreased the time nurses spent on indirect care”.
- Education – Nursing informatics can also serve as an important tool for nursing education and training. It can be especially helpful in creating an online curriculum which can allow flexible timing and accessibility. Use of tools like virtual stimulations can also ensure a better and safer learning experience.
How to become a nurse informaticist
The minimum requirement to become a nurse informaticist is to have a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN). Advanced degrees like a masters (MSN) or doctoral (DNP) degree are not mandatory but it is preferable. You also need a NCLEX-RN to have a license for higher degrees.
For further enrollment into a nursing informatics degree, students must acquire a few years of clinical experience. In the course of the degree, a nurse is required to work closely with an IT team to enhance technical skills. A nursing student will need to learn about management systems, databases, informatics theory, data encryption, data privacy and security and statistical interpretation among other things.
Nursing informatics certification programs are offered by a number of learning institutes like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Each have their own requirements for certification that need to be met. Some institutes also offer online courses.
Demand for informatics nurses
As healthcare is advancing rapidly, the pressure for management systems to keep up is also escalating. While healthcare has changed a great deal the management systems lag behind. A NLM article records that management systems are so poor that despite the exponential growth of the healthcare industry, patients often don’t even benefit properly from automated reminder systems. The article also says that the innovation seen in most areas of the health industry is absent in case of “national standards for the capture, storage, communication, processing, and presentation of health information”. Therefore, the demand for informatics nurses become extremely apparent.
In addition to this, the medical field is also gearing towards a preference for professionals with interdisciplinary specialties. This preference is influenced by the holistic direction that healthcare is slowly adopting. In this scenario, nurses who are adept at technology in addition to knowing how to treat patients become invaluable. Nurse informatics, therefore, becomes a sought-after specialty.
An aging population of nurses also proves to be an additional factor to the growing demand of informaticist nurses. NLM notes that approximately one million registered nurses are presently older than 50 years. In addition to a looming retirement, older nurses also face the problem of unfamiliarity with newer management systems.
Owing to these reasons, the growth prospects of nurse informaticist positions are incredibly high. Walden University reports that the demand for nurse informatics roles are expected to grow by 28% between 2021 and 2031.
Informatics nurses can occupy roles such as nursing informatics specialists, clinical analysts, nurse executives and nursing informatics educators. Walden University notes that approximately 136,200 skilled individuals will be needed by 2031 for these roles.
Nurse informaticist salary
According to the 2020 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, the base annual salary of a nurse informaticist ranged from $61,000 to $115,000 annually. Nurses on the higher end of the spectrum had higher educational qualifications or more work experience or even both.
The future of nursing informatics
Nursing informatics is a field that targets areas where healthcare is struggling the most. It has ground breaking potential to change the face of healthcare by integrating technology in to medical practice on the most interactive level. Eventually, with tools like AI, nursing informatics can impact all aspects of patientcare. From simple record keeping to monitoring patient health through wearable devices, informatics tools can be used to process large amounts of patient data to detect, track and treat a host of medical issues.