Nursing Informatics: Integrating Health Care with Information Technology

What is Nursing Informatics?

Nursing Informatics is the integration of clinical nursing with information management and computer processes. It is a relatively new approach to health care that combines nursing skills with information technology expertise. Nursing informatics specialists manage and communicate nursing data and information to improve decision-making by consumers, patients, nurses, and other health care providers.

The nursing process has four main steps: planning, implementation, evaluation, and assessment. However, since information management is embedded in the nursing process and practice, some nursing communities identify a fifth step in the nursing process: documentation. Documentation and patient-centered care are central components of the nursing process. Automated documentation is vitally important, not just for nursing, but for all patient care. Up-to-date and accurate information at every step of the nursing process is the key to safe, high-quality, patient-centered care.

The successful implementation of nursing and health information systems requires the following: First, it is necessary to have well-designed systems that support the nursing process within the culture of an organization. The second requirement is to have the acceptance and integration of the information systems in the regular workflow of the nursing and patient care process. Finally, it is important to have resources that can support the aforementioned factors. One of the most effective and valuable resources that a healthcare organization can add is a nurse informatics specialist.

Nursing Informatics Specialists

Nursing informatics specialists are medical experts with extensive experience in clinical practice. These individuals have experience using and implementing the nursing process. These nurses have excellent analytical and critical thinking skills. They also understand the workflow of patient care delivery and the integration points for automated documentation. Having additional education and experience with information systems is also important for this occupation. Finally, Nursing Informaticians make excellent project managers due to the similarity between the project management process and the nursing process.

To be competitive in this field, one must become familiar with relational databases by taking a class on database structure. They must also become proficient and comfortable with MS Office, especially Excel, Access and Visio.

Why are these jobs important to healthcare?

Nursing and health informatics brings great value to patients and the health care system. Some examples of how they provide value include:

  • Provide support to nursing work processes using technology
  • Increase the accuracy and completeness of nursing documentation
  • Improve nurse workflow
  • Automation of nursing data collection and reuse
  • Facilitate clinical data analysis
  • Provide nursing content to standardized languages


To give some background in the field of healthcare/nursing informatics, there are some governing bodies for this field. The Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is the main governing body for professionals in informatics and nursing. This group, formed in 2004, has the following four goals: NI awareness, education, resources (including websites), and RHIO (Regional Health Information Organization).

RHIOs are also known as Community Health Information Networks (CHINs). These are the networks that connect doctors, hospitals, laboratories, radiology centers and insurance companies. They all share and transmit patient information electronically through a secure system. Those organizations that are part of RHIOs have a commercial interest in improving the quality of health care that is delivered.

Steps for a job in this field

To enter the field of nursing informatics, you generally need a minimum of a four-year degree. There are specific healthcare informatics degrees available. Earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is also a requirement before taking the ANCC certification test for Nursing Informatics. Some people start with just a two-year degree or diploma, but go on to earn their BSN before becoming certified. Although there are several different routes to enter the field, the most favored way is to earn a Master’s in Nursing Informatics early on, however most people start their career before earning their master’s degree.

Most nurses who are in the informatics field start out in a specialty area such as Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Perioperative (OR) Services, Med-Surg, Orthopedic Nursing or Oncology, just to name a few. , and they work in that specialty for an extended period. Working in a specialty area helps nurses learn normal work processes and routines, as well as understand the patient care process in their specialty. They are usually experts in their specialty and later develop an interest in computerized documentation or some other technological approach to healthcare. They then tend to gradually transition into a clinical information systems support role.

If you are interested in nursing and technology, this could be a career that can combine both skills into one rewarding job.

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