In the healthcare industry, there are many aspects of patient care. We tend to think about the bedside experience and how doctors and nurses treat physical maladies. However, healthcare professionals must consider and combine various factors to effectively deliver care to those patients. One such component is informatics, which is critical to helping healthcare professionals manage patient data and deliver quality care.
What Is Nursing Informatics?
Nursing informatics is a critical component of today’s healthcare landscape, integrating nursing science with information technology (IT) and computer science. This allows nursing professionals to better manage and communicate data, information and knowledge in their nursing practice.
As healthcare increasingly relies on technology, the role of nursing informatics in enhancing patient care has gained significant importance. Nurses can learn foundational informatics concepts in an online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program like the one offered by the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).
Fundamentals of Nursing Informatics
Nursing informatics plays a vital role in improving the quality of patient care by maximizing communication, streamlining processes and facilitating evidence-based practice (EBP) across different healthcare departments.
According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), nursing informatics is “the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice.” It involves using electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs), computerized provider order entry systems and other digital tools to optimize patient care.
When employed appropriately, nursing informatics can enhance patient care in several ways:
- improves communication among healthcare providers, which reduces the risk of miscommunication and ensuring that accurate, up-to-date patient information is available and allows nurses to provide patients with more informed, personalized care
- streamlines nursing workflows, enabling nurses to spend more time on direct patient care and less on administrative tasks
- facilitates evidence-based practice by providing access to the latest research and clinical guidelines, which helps nurses make better-informed decisions and improve patient outcomes
The Intersection of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Nursing Informatics
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the role of nursing informatics, highlighting its importance in managing public health crises. According to a recent Nursing Management article, the pandemic rapidly expanded telehealth services, requiring nurse informaticists to develop new workflows and adapt to remote patient monitoring systems.
Furthermore, the pandemic demonstrated the need for robust data management and analytics to:
- track and analyze patient data
- support resource allocation
- inform decision-making in a constantly changing environment
Technology’s Rising Role in Healthcare
Health Catalyst makes an excellent point surrounding the essential place of nursing informatics in the healthcare industry:
“Technology is not just part of healthcare; it is healthcare. […] As such, the nurse informaticists’ role is an integral part of healthcare delivery, encompassing system selection and implementation and training of technologies to provide safe, high-quality, patient-centric care across the continuum, no matter the delivery method,” states Cathy Menkiena, MBA, BSN, RN-BC.
This article outlines three essential responsibilities of a nurse informaticist, including:
- Knowing and communicating the “why” behind evolved processes. If there’s no reasoning behind change, nurses are slower to adopt it. On the other hand, if they understand why change benefits patients, themselves and the entire healthcare system, they will be more likely to accept it into their nursing practice.
- Incorporating new technologies into the day-to-day. There’s a great deal of testing that goes into implementing new technologies. Throughout that process, nurse informaticists identify educational opportunities to pass along to nurses who will be performing the “new” way of doing things within their day-to-day activities.
- Validating data with the “three Vs”: volume, velocity and variety. Volume encompasses the vast amount of healthcare data available, velocity refers to the speed at which that data moves through the system and variety involves the different sources data emerges from — and how it all comes together to paint a cohesive picture of a patient’s story. It also helps nurse informaticists identify where data might be missing in that patient’s personal story.
Preparing for Your Role in Nursing Informatics
UIC’s online RN to BSN program emphasizes nursing informatics and its various applications in professional nursing, leadership and management. The program’s comprehensive coursework also covers ways to address social and economic issues in contemporary healthcare.
One essential component of this program is the Nursing Research and Statistics for Evidence Based Practice course, which looks at the basics of “statistical measures, vocabulary, data analysis, and hypothesis testing.” The Introduction to Nursing Informatics course explores “the concepts of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom as they develop from information and patient care technology.”
Depending on one’s preference, students can complete this program in as few as 12 months. There are also multiple start dates per calendar year, allowing students to enroll at their convenience.
Upon graduation, nursing professionals have the knowledge and skills to progress into nursing management and leadership positions, community and public health roles and any career focusing on nursing informatics.
Learn more about UIC’s online RN to BSN program.