HealthMarch 23, 2022

Supporting nurse informatics leadership development

By: Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
As health information technology (HIT) evolves in the industry, nursing informatics (NI) needs greater numbers of nurse leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Defined by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, nursing informatics is a specialty integrating nursing practice with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.1 These nursing professionals manage a variety of job responsibilities, such as assessing and analyzing healthcare technology needs, testing systems technology, serving as liaisons between staff members and information technology (IT) experts, and researching different informatics topics affecting healthcare providers and patients.2

As health information technology evolves in the industry, nursing informatics needs greater numbers of nurse leaders. Within informatics, the leadership pipeline has become known as succession planning and management. Emerging NI leaders must navigate this pipeline, and many efforts support individuals as they develop into leaders. However, some research indicates that disparities in both leadership roles and pay, underrepresentation of minorities, and institutionalized racism all play a role the dearth of leaders.

How professional organizations and nursing leadership can help enhance the NI pipeline

A recent study in CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing examined how other nurse leaders can support the NI leadership pipeline.3 The results of this study can help other nursing professionals create opportunities and a context in which novice leaders can begin their leadership journey.

Current NI leadership often focuses on developing leadership skills, engaging in leadership opportunities, and connecting mentors to mentees. This can be challenging, especially as individuals from communities of color have been historically excluded from the NI pipeline and have often faced exclusion from leadership roles. The authors of the study used website scans, interviews, surveys, and a review of the findings with eight NI leaders to gather data. The results of these methods point to several ways leaders and professional organizations can help support the NI leadership pipeline.

Build more leadership development opportunities

Every participant described a need to bolster existing developmental opportunities while also leveraging the organization’s ability to provide new opportunities. Many detailed how existing partnerships with other professional organizations could help create new NI leadership and education opportunities. Additionally, all such opportunities should be open and available to any potential NI leader, regardless of degree, where a person got their degree, and who potential leaders knew.

Provide opportunities to engage in leadership positions

According to background research, many NI leaders are either elected or appointed to their leadership position. In many cases, NI leaders are elected to their positions.

Raising awareness of nursing informatics

Raising awareness and understanding of NI is also an important factor. Many, if not most, do not understand the importance of NI; additionally, many have no idea what NI leaders do and how their roles are important to the nursing profession.

To raise awareness, NI professionals could coordinate with and offer opportunities for other nursing organizations to have activities like weekend immersion experiences. These could help other nurses better understand the NI field while also raising awareness to help support NI education and training.

Encourage emerging leaders

Current leaders within the NI field can use their existing organizational mechanisms to help support new leaders on their journey through the NI pipeline. This may include connecting with emerging NI leaders to encourage them to run for leadership positions. Other suggestions included nominating emerging and current leaders for awards within and outside organizations to help support recognition.

Additionally, the recognition of other nurses who have the potential to succeed in informatics is crucial. Several survey respondents noted that, before they were leaders, someone else in the nursing profession recognized their interest in HIT and encouraged them to work toward their NI goals.

Be mentors or provide mentorship opportunities

Leadership development depends on mentorship in almost all cases. However, only two of the identified NI organizations had some formal mentorship program. Building nursing mentorship networks can provide networking opportunities and boost an emerging NI leader’s success.

Provide education and training opportunities

NI organizations must provide opportunities for future NI leaders to receive the education and training they need to be successful. Training could be offered based on the organization’s membership base — such training could include webinars, continuing education, online courses, certification courses, journal clubs, and self-learning opportunities.

Based on this study’s findings, NI leaders should work to advocate for the continued development of NI leadership pipelines. Getting involved in such efforts can help develop actionable strategies to help support prospective NI leaders.

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  1. “What Is Nursing Informatics?” HIMSS, HIMSS, 13 Jan. 2022, https://www.himss.org/resources/what-nursing-informatics.
  2. “What Is Nursing Informatics & How to Become a Nurse Informaticist.” What Is Nursing Informatics & How to Become a Nurse Informaticist || RegisteredNursing.org, RegisteredNursing.org, 4 Feb. 2022, https://www.registerednursing.org/nursing-informatics/#nurse-informatics-faqs.
  3. “How to Support the Nursing Informatics Leadership Pipeline: Recommendations for Nurse Leaders and Professional Organizations.” NursingCenter, https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=6200542&Journal_ID=54020&Issue_ID=6200439.
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
Freelance Health and Medical Content Writer, Wolters Kluwer Health
Sarah has over nine years’ experience in various clinical areas, including surgery, endocrinology, family practice, and pharmaceuticals. She began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside to help educate and inform healthcare consumers and providers.
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