The career pathway to nursing informatics, which leverages technology by combining nursing skills with science and data management, might be closer than you think.
Bedside nurses can get started by getting involved with their organization’s initiatives in IT that include the clinical arena, said nurses who already work in informatics. Volunteering as a super-user for electronic health records projects is another route to take on more of an informatics role.
Super-users, individuals trained to serve as resource people in their practice areas, “become sort of an informatics leader in their work area and act as a liaison to the informatics team for any new initiatives,” said Ellen Pollack, MSN, RN, chief nursing informatics officer, UCLA Health, Los Angeles. “It gives them the ability to get inside the inner circle and gives them the experience that can then allow them to get a position as nursing informaticists.”
Pollack also recommended nurses attend conferences, such as the ones offered by the American Nursing Informatics Association to network and learn more about the field.
Michelle Lardner, MS, RN-BC, director of nursing informatics at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., agrees that working as a super-user is a great entry point.
“When I get resumes and people apply to my department that is one of the things I look for,” Lardner said. “If you have no experience, are you at least a super-user? Because that to me shows you are engaged, this is of interest to you and you want to be involved with all things informatics.”
Her interest with informatics deepened when she was doing performance improvement while working as a med/surg nurse, Lardner said.
“I was tasked with reviewing and auditing the charts of the EMR for specific quality initiatives for the hospital and putting together the statistics around that specifically for my unit and reporting that to my supervisor,” she said. “Having done that, I got to be really intimate with where to find everything in the medical records, not just the stuff I needed to do, but what other people documented. So I saw the value in ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great to be able to change some of this because it would be easier to do it this way.’ And then I got my master’s in informatics around that same time.”
Many med/surg and other direct-care nurses interested in informatics roles start gaining experience though peer leadership opportunities, such as nursing shared governance as well as volunteering as a super-user for EHR projects, said Michelle Dardis, MSN, MBA, RN-BC, associate project director, eClinical, Division of Healthcare Evaluation, The Joint Commission.
“As hospitals mature in their EHR use, opportunities may change from supporting big implementations, such as CPOE, to assisting with clinical documentation tracers, new hire orientation, and other roles supporting the use of the EHR,” said Dardis, who is responsible for developing electronic clinical quality measures.
As the field grows and the visibility of informaticists in both clinical and business settings increases, experts say it is important that nurses entering the field possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to further promote the value of the nurse informaticist. Nurses who want to advance in the world of informatics should seek a master’s degree or certification.
Specialized training will help nurses in their roles as super-user and assist them with training their peers. And being educated can help these nurses understand how their systems need to be set up, said Patricia C. Dykes, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, an American Medical Informatics Association board member.
“Nurses make really great informaticists because they understand work flow,” said Dykes, senior nurse scientist, program director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice, and program director of the Center for Nursing Excellence at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “They are very often at the center of patient care. They interact with the patient and they interact with all of the different disciplines. They do have optimal experience that can really benefit an implementation of a rollout or their role as super-user. Additional informatics training is important, too.”
Dardis agreed. Certification establishes a baseline competency in the knowledge necessary to be successful in the field, she said.