I’ve had 40 years to celebrate being a nurse, and 34 of those years were spent working in a nursing informatics role. I guess that makes me a pioneer!
What drew me to nursing informatics was the opportunity to be creative and innovate in my work. Nurse informaticists solve problems using technology and informatics principles, while also applying our nursing knowledge. Knowing that I can improve health and care through a creative, problem-solving approach gives me an exciting reason to go to work each day.
Why did I pick this specialty? Well, it sort of picked me.
I was working in the nursing education department of a community hospital and was asked to organize the computer training for our hospital information system. Soon I became the liaison between nursing and the information technology department and quickly realized that I’d found my career passion.
How has the specialty of nursing informatics evolved over these decades? Back in the 90s, formal nursing informatics education programs didn’t exist. At most there was one informatics nurse per hospital or health system. Networking groups formed in regions throughout the country to enable us to share our experiences. I helped found the Midwest Alliance for Nursing Informatics which eventually became absorbed into the HIMSS Nursing Community and has grown to represent more than 8,000 nurse informaticists today.
The American Nurses Association published the first Scope of Practice for Nursing Informatics in 1994 in order to define the specialty. This was the first publication to recognize that the person is both a nurse and an informaticist. For those of us beginning our practice in this new field, it was reassuring to have guidance for our professional performance. Newer editions describe the sophistication and evolution of the nursing informatics specialty, which is now supported by higher level education and C-suite positions.
Professional certification of the specialty of nursing informatics became a reality in 1995, and today thousands of nurses have active credentials of board certification. I can remember taking the exam in those early days, hoping that my own experience and expertise met the mark.
Renewal of certification is required every five years with proof of license to work, practice hours, and continuing education credits. I missed the deadline for one renewal cycle due to my move to California, and I had to retake the exam. It would certainly have been embarrassing to relinquish my credentials after decades in the specialty if I hadn’t passed!
Today nurses have many opportunities to specialize in their careers. The continuum of care has expanded well beyond the walls of the hospital, and innovation is rapidly changing how and where we practice. Virtual care, mobile devices, smart apps and personal fitness trackers are all tools in our toolbox, and predictive analytics and machine learning will soon augment decision making.
This is a great time to consider what continuing education we might need just to keep up with the pace of technology.
The tools and technologies that we used when nursing informatics was founded have rapidly evolved to the high-tech innovations and concepts in use today. But the process of applying those tools remains the same.
Nursing workflow, documentation burden, health outcomes and patient engagement can all be improved by the work of nurse informaticists. That is certainly worth celebrating!