Nursing & Health Informatics in Finland

The importance of nursing and health informatics competencies is recognized globally. This is clearly evident in Finland, as the TIGER (Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform) global community heard recently. Kaija Saranto, PhD, RNT, RN, FACMI, FAAN, professor of health and human services informatics, University of Eastern Finland, Department of Health and Social Management and Elina Rajalahti, PhD, MHSc, RN, principal lecturer of health informatics, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, spoke about the work currently underway in Finland around integrating these competencies into the education of future healthcare professionals. Drs. Saranto and Rajalahti presented their experiences incorporating the work of TIGER International Informatics Competency Synthesis Project into curricula at various levels of healthcare education in Finland.

Finland first launched its national strategy for health information technology development and implementation in 1995. A testament to the strong administrative governmental support behind this effort, it was the first in Europe. More recently, the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health updated their strategy to include dual foci promoting ‘Active Citizens’ and the ‘Effectivity of Social and Healthcare Services.’

An ‘Active Citizen’ is one who is an “active partner with healthcare professionals to take responsibility for his/her own well-being and health,” describes Dr. Saranto. The ‘Effectivity of Social and Healthcare Services’ looks at new and innovative ways to employ technology and (clinical) repositories to create “new ways to provide services, through digitization” of healthcare information, she says. As with so many initiatives globally, this “strategy highlights the importance of interdisciplinary practice and addresses the role of competencies in digital work environments,” concludes Dr. Saranto.

Ensuring future healthcare professionals practice with these objectives in mind, Dr. Rajalahti presented ways in which the competencies have been incorporated into the nursing and health informatics education at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in southern Finland. Nursing students are taught the “’professional competencies of nurses responsible for general care’ as determined nationally in 2014 and utilized across Finland,” says Dr. Rajalahti. Among these are:

  • client-centeredness
  • ethics and professionalism in nursing
  • evidence-based practice and decision-making
  • quality and safety of social and health care services

However, and perhaps most importantly, as Dr. Rajalahti explains, “nursing informatics penetrates the whole nursing curriculum.”

Supporting this endeavor, Dr. Rajalahti describes how students “learn to document in ‘real’ EHR environments following the Finnish Care Classification (FinCC) system” in a simulated documentation system. Students utilize cases for their nursing care plans covering common disease conditions, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Diabetes

Utilizing this approach, Dr. Rajalahti states students developing a more solid understanding and comfort level with “documentation in accordance with nursing process.”

It is clear from the information presented by Drs. Saranto and Rajalahti via the TIGER Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) webinar series on Jan. 19 that the seminal work begun in 2015 by TIGER International Committee’s Informatics Competency Synthesis Project is supported across Finland. Their hour-long presentation, based on their Finland case study, which aided the synthesis project findings, is available on-demand within the VLE.

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Dr. Stephen C. Burrows, DPM, MBA, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, is clinical assistant professor, chair, health science & leadership, program director, healthcare informatics, Sacred Heart University.

Health IT; HIMSS17; nursing informatics;