What is Nursing Informatics?
There are many places on the web where we can find the definition of what nursing informatics is.
According to the American Nursing Informatics Association, nursing informatics
is a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice.”
As compact as that definition is, it doesn’t really tell me much, specially if a person has no experience in nursing or computer science, and that’s why I would like to explain what nursing informatics is, from my own personal experience.
However, if you’re satisfied with that definition, and you would like to explore other more pressing subjects such as,
How much do nurse informatics make?
What’s a the difference between a clinical and nursing informatics analyst?
You got an informatics interview coming up and you want to know what questions they might ask you, then feel free to explore some of the following posts on this blog:
Understanding What Nursing Informatics Is
Nursing informatics is a field within the field of health informatics, where people who have a nursing degree are involved in the implementation of a computer application in a hospital, nursing home, doctor’s office, public health clinics, or other healthcare setting.
The implementation of a computer application in any of these settings goes through different standard phases.
A project begins with the design and analysis phase, it moves to the configuring phase, then testing phase, training, implementation and support phase.
During each of these specific phases, a nursing informatics analyst will perform specific tasks and can also serve as a liaison between different departments within a healtcare facility to complete a project.
Briefly, during the design and analysis phase, the analyst collects data required to implement the project to the specific needs of a client.
In the configuring phase the data from the prior phase is used to build the system.
During the next phase, the system is tested to see if it’s working as needed, and then the users are trained to use this system.
Finally, the project is implemented and this is known as the go live. At this point the users are supported in case any issues might occur.
Designing And Analyzing
To illustrate these phases, let’s assume a hospital has a specific team of nurses who do wound care. This hospital decides to implement an electronic record for this group of nurses.
The role of the informatics nurse is to meet with the members of the wound care team and do the following: give a demo of how the system works; explain the possible ways that the system could be configured to meet the needs of these users; gather data related to specific fields that are charted by the wound care team; lastly, to understand how the workflow of this department works.
This part of the project is the design and analysis phase.
Configuring The Application
Once the informatics nurse gathers all this information, the system is then configured based on the data already collected and thus new workflows for the department can be defined or improved.
These workflows need to be also configured in the system. This process could be done by one person, but in reality, the system most likely needs to have different configurations which are assigned to different persons.
Example: one person could be in charge of collecting and uploading all the users to the database, while another person has to build the assessments the nurses will use. In smaller facilities though one person could run the whole show.
When the system has been configured, it needs to be tested to make sure that it works as designed and to make sure that no errors happen when the users operate the system.
Unit testing is a method to test specific modules of the system as a whole.
For instance, the person who collected and uploaded the users to the system could run a query or script to make sure that all the users are there.
The person who built the assessments could make sure that all the elements of the assessment are in place. Once each person has their own module working, integration testing happens. During this process, the modules come together and everything is tested from a to z to make sure everything works as expected.
After testing is done, users are trained on how to use the system. This is an opportunity to see what their future system looks like and also to discover potential errors that need to be fixed. At the same time, the users get to see if the workflow makes sense. It so may happen that sometimes they realize that it doesn’t, so minor tweakings are done to the system to improve it.
Implementation And Support
When the system is at last implemented, the superusers (users identified by the informatics nurse as being able to navigate/use the system well), who were trained earlier in the project, help other users to navigate the new system. Also, when unexpected issues occur during a go live, it is the role of the informatics nurse to fix them or delegate them to the person in charge.
Nursing Informatics In A Nutshell
By now you might be wondering, so how is nursing informatics related to all this?
The informatics nurse can have different roles in the prior scenarios. Simply, they can be the liaison between the nurses and the developers or technical staff, or they can be the ones collecting the user requirements, setting up an application, or tweaking it to customize it to your hospital’s or clinic’s needs, or they can be out training users, or providing support once an application goes live.
However, depending on the size of the employer, these roles can be done by either a single person, or each role could be actually devoted to one person at a time.
For now though, be aware that nursing informatics is a broad and generic field where nursing science and computer technology merge to come up with solutions to meet or improve the quality care requirements for patients. Nurses take many roles within this field to make the magic happen, and on the next post, I will discuss the roles of an informatics nurse in greater detail.
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