Nursing Informatics Career Path - Top Three Skill Sets


What are the top three competencies that nurse informaticists should possess to advance their career in informatics?

Answers from Margaret A.S. Senn

The role of the nurse informaticists varies among organizations so the need for competencies will be dependent on your organization’s needs. In general the three competencies that I find most beneficial are change management, workflow documentation, and requirements gathering.

Change management

As part of any implementation the nurse informaticists needs to understand the impact of the change on the users. Using change management processes will help to move the transition of the users from current state to future state more manageable. The use of change management processes will also allow the users and the organization to understand the impact and prepare them to deal with the change. The nurse informaticists need to be an active proponent to assure that change management is part of any changes no matter if they are considered to be big or small.

Workflow documentation

With any new implementation the first steps in the system life cycle is requirements gathering and workflow documentation. Using interviews and doing on-site observations the nurse informaticists will gather requirements on current processes. Documentation of these processes can occur in several ways. Using templates for use cases and user stories the nurse informaticists is able to document information in a meaningful way that the users can review and understand. Knowing how to obtain and document requirements is critical to the success of the project as it outlines the current and future needs of the users and the organization.

Requirements gathering

Using this information from the requirements gathering the nurse informaticists can map out the current workflows and analyze what is required to maintain the current process. This exercise will also document any gaps in the current workflow as well as any process that the users want to improve. Workflow documentation can take many forms but the most common is a flow diagram using Visio showing a sequence of steps detailing start to completion of the task. In a multidisciplinary workflow diagram the use of swim lanes is a comprehensive way to document the entire process and see the cross overs between the different users. As the role of the nurse informaticists evolves we will need to be proficient in all aspects of the system life cycle.

Answers from Beth Halley:

Margaret has noted some important considerations and competencies essential to advancing one’s Nursing Informatics career path and expertise. To that, I would add several additional considerations including technical proficiencies, organizational skills and healthcare policy understanding.

Technical Proficiencies

As we strive to improve quality, safety and cost of care in our country, the ability to share data across healthcare environments, payers, policy advocates, and with consumers is becoming a vital component of health information technology (IT). Nurse informaticists need to understand and address the complexities of standards and information interoperability as these are vital technical competencies. This is a complex area, but critical to ensure that nurse driven information is incorporated in electronic exchange of consumer and population health information. There are numerous efforts across the country to adopt and implement information standards and execute health Information exchange. The need and ability to simplify the processes involved will drive the future of information exchange. Nurse informaticists should be encouraged to consider developing an expertise and engage in the health information standards and interoperability deliberations, which are foundational components of health information exchange.

Organizational Skills

Another important professional competency area for nurse informaticists to consider developing as part of their career path is organizational related skills, including program management proficiency. Nurses bring many clinical management and teamwork skills to health IT and should embrace leading projects to demonstrate and develop their management capabilities. In addition, understanding the critical business drivers, costs and schedules impacting projects will add to an IN’s knowledgebase and expertise. Developing organizational skills and program management understanding should provide a broad appreciation for various aspects of health IT.

Healthcare Policy

As nurse informaticists prepare to advance their career path, another critical competency area to engage in is health IT policy. Developing an understanding of the various mechanisms that drive healthcare access, delivery, quality, safety and reimbursement in our country, is more important than ever. Since health IT is considered a vital component in transforming healthcare in our country, the ability of the NI Community to impact the policy debates, regulations and rules, has never been more important. The HIMSS NI Community provides a variety of forums to increase nurse’s awareness of health IT policy items as well as opportunities to comment on public programs, legislation and rules. I encourage all nurse informaticists to get engaged in these deliberations.

As Margaret noted, the roles of the nurse informaticist is evolving. As nurse informaticists consider what competencies they should possess to advance their career in informatics, I believe developing various aspects of technical, management and policy areas is critical not only to individual career development but to ensuring that the nurses’ voice continues to part of the transforming healthcare through health IT.