We've brought together advice from two expert practitioners on this page. Patricia Trangenstein, whose video interview appears below, is a professor of nursing informatics at Vanderbilt University. Below the video, Chris O'Brien goes into more detail about nursing informatics and what kinds of opportunities are available in the field.
Chris O'Brien received her BSN from Auburn University and her Master's in Public Health degree from Emory University. With a background in cardiac care, home health, nursing research & education, and medical writing, she now enjoys the dual paths of being a freelance medical writer and yoga teacher in Decatur, GA.
According to the American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA), "nursing informatics is a specialty that combines nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice."
Informatics nurses are involved in a wide variety of job responsibilities relating to information technology (IT). The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society states that informatics nurses play a significant role in user education, system implementation, user support, and workflow analysis. They help to bridge the gap between the information technology world and the clinical world.
Job Skills & Training
So what does it take to be an informatics nurse? Some RNs get into this field through on-the-job training, while others take special courses or even enroll in graduate programs for nursing informatics. Today there are still a variety of ways to enter the field once you are a registered nurse. Since most health care information systems require current clinical knowledge, work experience as an RN can be a big plus, depending on your specialty.
Aptitude & Attitude
Being willing and able to quickly learn new software systems is a huge benefit when it comes to on-the-job training in nursing informatics. If you are able to adapt quickly to new systems and new ways to manage information, you might be able to use these skills in securing an informatics job. In fact, Laura Davidson, RN, Manager of Clinical Informatics for Cottage Health System in Santa Barbara, CA came into her position by demonstrating this type of aptitude. She worked as a bedside nurse for 10 years, before getting involved with the rollout of a new software system in her hospital. What she thought would be a temporary job ended up lasting six years and led to her current management position.
According to Davidson, the main focus of her job is to make sure care givers are still taking care of patients instead of spending too much time on a computer.
She says, "It is a very tough time for our practice. No one likes change, especially forced change. I am here to facilitate and make it as painless as possible, while reiterating that it is gonna happen. The care givers also have a responsibility in making this a workable system. We have to collaborate."
Is Informatics for You?
Not every nurse is cut out for this kind of work, but for those with a technical aptitude or previous work experience with computer systems it can be a dream job, combining knowledge and skills from both areas to create easier day-to-day operations for clinicians and managers in a variety of health care settings.