What is Nurse Informatics?

The information age has touched the lives and careers of everyone, whether it is obvious or not. Collecting, sorting, storing, protecting and evaluating data has become a major focus of the health care industry specifically, and nurses are on the forefront of using and administering medical information technology in the form of nurse informatics.

Computers in Health Care

When visiting a health clinic, hospital or dentistís office, electronic devices that record, scan, duplicate and evaluate are seen everywhere. Medical records of patientsí health history are stored and kept current with computer software designed for that specific purpose. Hospitals and doctors are given incentives by government agencies to move to electronic records if not already using them. Nurses are at the front lines of this information technology revolution which has given rise to careers in Nursing Informatics.

Software Technology and Nursing

Designing the software that powers the functionality of health care information systems requires expertise in software engineering as well as some knowledge of health care. Using these systems through the stages of hospital admission to discharge requires expertise in health care as well as some knowledge of IT, or Information Technology. Nursing professionalsí and IT professionalsí skill sets overlap at this juncture and the profession of nurse informatics is the result. Traditional nursing skills for patient care marry with expertise in the use of information systems.

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Using Information Systems

Most people who are employed are faced with learning some type of information system, whether they signed up for it or not. In todayís world, it is essential that workers receive as much training and gain as much knowledge about computer systems as they can in order to survive. Software that is used in hospitals and clinics must be learned and understood by the nurses who use it. Like other careers, nursing calls for a sub-specialty in information technology. Nurses can choose to focus on the information technology side of their skill set and become nurse informatics professionals.

Consulting Careers

Possessing knowledge of health care along with experience in using software designed to manage patient care gives nurses the qualification to become excellent consultants. Companies or hospitals preparing to purchase or install new software often require the advice of seasoned professionals for effective implementation. Software companies also can benefit from the input of nurses in designing and laying out data input screens for efficient use. Consultants may also be retained for training new users while the system becomes familiar.

Thriving in Nursing Informatics

Many nurses enjoy the exposure to computer systems and managing data electronically. Ensuring proper data entry and retrieval in the course of caring for patients can be rewarding and challenging. Effective design of the software can be best accomplished with consultations from nurses who are the actual users. Overall project management for installations of medical computerized systems requires leadership and the same overlapping skills of medical care and data management.

Nurse informatics offers a wide range of interesting careers for someone in the health care industry. Medical software will always require someone to design it, implement it, support it, and train others to use it. Who would know better what good medical record software should do than a nurse who uses it every day?
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