I have one of the best nursing careers in the world right now: I get to work from home with incredibly smart people, and my opinion is valued because I am a nurse. What do I do? I am an Informatics Nurse. I became an Informatics Nurse just over 10 years ago, at a time when this field was fairly new and few nurses had even heard of it. This past year the pandemic put new focus on health technology as telehealth, virus tracking, and health data exchanges took off. Now I am getting lots of questions from nurses curious about what Nursing Informatics is and what I do each day.

What is Nursing Informatics:

You can think of Nursing Informatics as the bridge between clinical and technical. We are nurses who work with technology and data to solve problems and improve health outcomes. We play a critical role in developing and improving health technology so it user-friendly and helpful for healthcare workers.

How I got started in Nursing Informatics:

Before I started my career in Nursing Informatics, I was not especially tech savvy. I was a hospice nurse who spent my time visiting people in their homes, which is work I absolutely loved. I never would have tried something new if it were not for our hospice computer system getting harder to use. There were nurses who chose to retire instead of dealing with the new system.

Because I was the go-to nurse for anyone having computer trouble, several of the senior hospice nurses recommended looking into this new field of Nursing Informatics. They described it as being on the cutting edge of nursing and technology.

After doing some research, I realized it was a good fit for three reasons:

  • Technology is a major game changer in healthcare, and this was a chance to be in the middle of the action.
  • We need more nurses in the room when technology is designed, and I could be one of those nurses.
  • I could help a lot more people through technology than I could at the bedside.

At the time, I thought I had to go back to school to get into Nursing Informatics. The hospice agency I worked for covered full tuition, so getting a master’s degree seemed like a great option. While in school I learned about electronic health records, data analysis, project management, and designing systems. I also got my first job from one of the internships I did in the program.

However, I now know a master’s degree is not required and should not be a barrier for nurses interested in this field. There are many Informatics Nurses who get into this specialty by learning a few basics and getting some work experience. At the end of this post, I provide more information about how nurses can make the transition into Nursing Informatics without going back to school.

What I do as an Informatics Nurse:

As an Informatics Nurse, my primary role is leading technology projects. That involves understanding clinical needs, forming a vision for the future, and determining how technology and process changes can get us to that future vision. Sometimes that requires purchasing a new computer system that can do more than the previous one. Other times, that means changing how the system is configured or used.

It is hard to describe a typical day because every day is so different. One day I could be in a strategy-forming session with healthcare leaders, figuring out what the next 5 years will look like. Another day, I could be in a demonstration from a new technology vendor showing what cool new things their software can do. Or I could sit in on a training session for the nurses who will use a new clinical technology.

Two things that remained consistent over the last decade of my career:

  • I am involved in big decisions. Healthcare leaders rely on Informatics Nurses for our opinion and ability to understand how everything fits together.
  • I am constantly learning. The little nerd in me jumps for joy when I hear about a new gadget that gets us closer to living like Star Trek.

The pandemic really put a spotlight on health technology, and investments are flowing in. It is a great time to be in this field because there are so many more options.

 

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