Nursing informatics plays a huge role in patient safety




A reader submitted a question about using her experience with electronic health records, her clinical practice and her background in risk management to develop a niche focusing on EHRs and the legal issues therein to improve patient safety.

My simple response is, “Go for it!”

EHRs are here to stay, and concern about patient safety will always be an issue for healthcare providers. Analyzing EHRs’ role in patient safety is necessary in today’s healthcare arena, and the investigation has already begun, as illustrated in the article, “Health Information Technology, Patient Safety and Professional Nursing Care Documentation in Acute Care Settings”. 

Nurses working in nursing informatics are thriving in healthcare. Two major roles seem to have emerged in the arena — the clinician who utilizes health information technology and the specialist who creates, facilitates, tests and implements new information technology. Both are essential roles.

According to the American Nurses Association, some of the major functional areas for specialists in nursing informatics include implementing EHRs, designing and training others in the use of EHRs, serving as consultants, developing policies within their respective institutions, and analyzing and managing outcomes. These roles can be seen in many healthcare settings, including acute care, long-term care and in physician and APRN offices. One of the greatest contributions made to patient safety by these nurses is in the documentation of the care in the EHR. Electronic documentation allows nurse informatics clinicians to access information quickly and to utilize that information to improve patient safety.

Two major roles seem to have emerged in the arena — the clinician who utilizes health information technology and the specialist who creates, facilitates, tests and implements new information technology.”

If you are interested in nursing informatics and patient safety, there is a wealth of information available to you on Nurse.com. Also, an excellent resource is the 2013 text “Fundamentals of Law for Health Informatics and Informatics Management, 2nd Edition,” published by the Health Information and Management Systems Society.

In addition to reading the many articles and texts, there are several informatics associations that can provide you with guidance and direction. Examples include The American Nursing Informatics Association, The Alliance for Nursing Informatics, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

If you, like the reader who posed her question, truly want to develop your expertise in nursing informatics, especially as a nurse informatics specialist, clinical experience in nursing is essential, as is a graduate degree in nursing or nursing informatics and nurse informatics certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center provides such certification for nurses with master’s degrees.

Nurses who specialize in nursing informatics, including nurse informatics clinicians, have much to contribute to the ongoing improvement of patient safety.

Nancy Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state.  Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

To learn more about the skills needed to specialize in informatics, read the article, “Informatics nurse: What’s in your toolkit?”

About the author
Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN 

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, Nurse.com's legal information columnist, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. To ask Nancy a question, email BrentsLaw@nurse.com.

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