Nursing Informatics: The Intersection of Technology and Clinical Practice
HealthMarch 27, 2018

Nursing informatics: The intersection of technology and clinical practice

How are nursing informaticists becoming an integral part of care delivery?

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.

From clinical nursing to health data analysis

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:

  • Administration, leadership and management - either directly with clinical informatics departments or in combination with other functional areas such as serving as project managers.
  • Analysis - using data to synthesize knowledge, inform decision support, and manage outcomes as well as taxonomies.
  • Compliance and integrity management - helping make sure organizations are meeting all the national laws and standards such as HIPAA, FDA, Joint Commission, etc.
  • Consultation - serving both internally or externally as a resource.
  • Coordination, facilitation, and integration - serving as the translator between end-users and IT experts.
  • Development - translating user requirements into solutions.
  • Education and professional development - ranges from teaching the end-user to use a device or application to educating the next generation of nurses and the general public.
  • Policy development and advocacy - being an advocate for consumers, hospital units, and the institution as a whole; also helping shape policies and standards at the state, national and organizational level.
  • Research and evaluation - conducting research in a variety of informatics topics that impacts both caregivers and consumers.

How does an informatics nurse work within a healthcare organization?

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. Having an informaticist makes a huge difference in an IT project, especially as somebody acting as a liaison between the technical and clinical communities.

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. 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.


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