Targeted Efforts Towards Advancing Adoption of a Unique Nurse Identifier

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Nursing informatics leaders are spreading the word (Sensmeier et al., 2019) about using a unique nurse identifier to measure nurses' essential value and contribution (Beale et al., 2021) to patient and nursing outcomes. Advocacy efforts gaining steam in the last decade include targeted education and partnerships with informatics, nursing, and health IT organizations along with technology system vendors to adopt and operationalize a unique nurse identifier in clinical practice and administration. Healthcare systems, innovation centers, and academia are beginning to pilot and study the use of a unique nurse identifier. Proof of concept (POC) pilots demonstrate nursing's powerful impact in clinical practice scenarios. Initial POCs follow advanced practice nurses' journey through education, career changes, advancing education, obtaining certifications, and measuring nursing outcomes to improve practice in all settings using a single identifier. 

Policy and advocacy

The Nursing Knowledge Big Data Science (NK:BDS) initiative identified the need and sparked the conceptual use of a unique identifier to raise awareness about measuring nurses’ value to measure nurses’ contribution to patient, nursing, and population outcomes. In 2020, the Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI) approved the following policy statement to encourage stakeholder adoption of a unique nurse identifier: 

The NCSBN ID should be used by key stakeholders as a nurse identifier to help demonstrate the value of nursing through research and enhance individual care and health outcomes via more comprehensive documentation in the EHR, ERP, and other technologies and systems.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) identifier (2021, p. 17) is a free, widely available, and unique code assigned when nurses pass the NCLEX exam. The NCSBN is actively involved in collaborating with nursing informaticists and health IT leaders to embrace the ID as the primary identifier to measure nurses' value in practice, operations, and academia to support the approved policy recommendation.

Globally, the nursing informatics community has united to facilitate enriched informatics education and bring awareness to the significance of a unique nurse identifier. These include ANI-approved education resources, an American Informatics Association (ANIA)-sponsored webinar, HIMSS support through informatics news, and NCSBN member newsletter items. An exciting step towards the broad adoption of a unique ID is the 2020-2030 NAM Future of Nursing Report citing a critical need for a unique nurse identifier to measure nurses' essential contributions to value-based care.

Into the future

Raising the voice and visibility of nursing's contributions to improving patient and nurses' safety and quality and enhancing clinician effectiveness and efficiencies with the added benefit of health IT systems interoperability has never been so timely. Happily, educators and organizations are beginning to consider using a unique nurse identifier with growing awareness and interest from nursing leaders and frontline workers in and outside nursing informatics and data science.

Today, nurses embark on a journey to leverage technology systems to prove our quantifiable value and effectiveness in clinical practice. The next move toward operationalizing a unique nurse identifier is to provide concrete technical specifications to healthcare systems, nursing scholars, institutions of higher learning, the nursing workforce, and HIT vendors. More pilots and awareness campaigns can assist all nurses in understanding better the usefulness of a unique nurse identifier. New, essential partnerships with health IT and technology vendors will support the voyage to adoption and advance the leveraging of the ID through implementation.  Continued championing, education, and socialization about the benefits of a unique nurse identifier through nursing informatics initiatives are requisite, and these central efforts will expand significantly in 2022 and beyond.

Online Journal of Nursing Informatics

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Alliance for Nursing Informatics. (2021). About ANI.

Alliance for Nursing Informatics. (2020). Demonstrating the value of nursing care through use of a unique nurse identifier policy statement.

Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI). (2021). Unique nurse identifier: Supporting documents.

American Association of College of Nursing (AACN). (2021). The essentials: Core competencies for professional nursing education.

American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA). (May 2021). Monthly webinar: A unique nurse identifier: Demonstrating nursing value.

Beale, N. et al. (2021). What a unique nurse identifier means for the future. American Nurse Journal, 16(9).

Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS). (n. d.). Advocating for a unique nurse identifier.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAM). (2021). The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a path to achieve health equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (2021). About NCSBN.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (Spring 2021). Updates on the unique nurse identifier (Nurses’ NCSBN ID). Leader-to-Leader Newsletter.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). (2021). Welcome to Nursys.

Nursing Knowledge Big Data Science Policy and Advocacy Workgroup (2021). Nursing knowledge: Big data science policy and advocacy workgroup. Unique nurse identifier - Body of work.

Sensmeier, J., Androwich, I., Baernholdt, M., Carroll, W., Fields, W., Fong, V., Murphy, J., Omery, A. & Rajwany, N. (2019, Summer). The value of nursing care through use of a unique nurse identifier. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 23(2).