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What Does an Informatics Nurse Do?

Mar 2, 2021
Fran Fasching, DNP, RN, FNP-BC

We asked an experienced Nurse Informaticist about her experience below. For more on nursing specialties, view this resource.

I’m old enough to remember utilizing paper patient charts. The charts were large, maroon binders with the patient's last name and room number boldly displayed on the spine, that were then stacked on a rack in the nurses’ station. 

Ample time was spent looking for these patient binders from the times they would be borrowed by physical therapy, the unit secretary to check for new orders, or the physician to chart after a medical exam. Missing charts led to wasted time looking for paper copies of results, physician notes, and patient care plans.

The role of nursing evolved with the advancements of electronic health records (EHRs), medication dispensing technology, and updated patient privacy laws. Nursing informatics pioneers reported frustration with early patient care technology and had the thought, “Did anyone ask a nurse how this should be done since we are the ones using this technology?”

Nursing Informatics incorporates computer science (computers and their processes), cognitive science (how the brain and nervous system interpret information), information science (collecting, storage, retrieval, and use of data), and nursing science (nursing theory and practice development) into a career that improves clinical efficiency while focusing on patient safety and outcomes.

What Are the Typical Responsibilities of an Informatics Nurse?

Nurses found a technology niche with the transition to modern electronic health records and incorporated multiple modes of technology in the day-to-day care of patients.

Informatics nursing is a growing and evolving field with typical responsibilities include:

  • Analyzing, interpreting, and sharing patient care data with clinical staff
  • Consulting and educating nurses regarding technology and charting systems
  • Translating nursing practice information to technicians and developers 
  • Identifying, collecting, and recording data that is relevant to clinical nursing
  • Reading current literature and sharing it with nurse colleagues
  • Evaluating technology systems for relevance to nursing and patient care

What Should Nurses Entering This Specialty Expect To Encounter on a Regular Basis?‍

Nurses that pursue informatics careers often have background experience with a combination of bedside nursing and informatics that develops into a non-clinical role. 

Nursing skills that translate to a Nursing Informatics career include:

  • Therapeutic listening
  • Therapeutic communication
  • Direct patient care experiences
  • Interpreting and translating patient data
  • Technology use in patient care
  • Educating nurses, clinical staff, and patients 
  • Confident and positive leadership

My Experience With Informatics and Nursing

My experience in informatics began with clinical experiences as an emergency room nurse, emergency room nurse practitioner, and then as an educator for nurses and nurse practitioners. 

Critical care equipment and communication methods introduced me to early forms of healthcare technology. Medication administration machines replaced locked medication rooms with cabinets containing labeled bins of medications. When physicians placed orders for medications in the paper chart, nurses used to go to the medication room to choose the correct medications from these bins. 

Then, paper charting transitioned to electronic health records. 

I was interested in improving patient care and found myself excited by the electronic health record technology. This excitement led me to help other nurses, nurse practitioners, and members of the healthcare team learn the new technology, improve patient care, and streamline patient care systems. 

As a nurse and nurse practitioner educator, I teach Nursing Informatics, covering the impact informatics has in outpatient care, hospital care, public health, disaster planning, and artificial intelligence applied to nursing. 

neon writing on inside of room below window looking out to skyscrapers data has a better idea informatics nurse

What Are Some of the Benefits of Working as an Informatics Nurse?

In addition to working in a new and evolving field, informatics nurses enjoy the following benefits:

  • Rated in the top fifteen highest paid nursing jobs
  • Work in an office setting
  • Work traditional daytime hours. 
  • Function in a team environment
  • Creatively problem-solve
  • Act in leadership nursing role
  • Varied daily experiences 

What Are Some of the Not-So-Great Parts of Working as an Informatics Nurse?

Although few, there are negatives to working as an informatics nurse, such as:

  • Typically working more than forty hours weekly
  • Must have work-related specialty experience and skills
  • Entering informatics is challenging
  • It’s not a clinical nursing position

Share Your Favorite Piece of Advice for Nursing New Grads or Students Looking To Become an Informatics Nurse

My best advice is to find your tribe. You can locate like-minded nurses by joining informatics nursing organizations, healthcare informatics organizations, attending conferences, and seeking out nursing informatics role models employed in your health network. 

It is essential for nurses to recognize the impact that technology has on patient care improvement. Share any informatics knowledge with your nursing team by being that person that others go to for answers about technology and nursing issues.Take the opportunity to embrace changes and help others to welcome it!

Nursing informatics provides another avenue in nursing, creates a path to improve patient care, and provides another reason to be proud of our profession. There is a niche in nursing for every personality. Allowing yourself to learn and explore new technology, increase knowledge of data, and learning how to transfer that data to others is an underrated nursing skill. 

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