Nursing Informatics: Connecting Tech with Care

Nursing Informatics: Connecting Tech with Care

Are you the tech-savvy nurse on the unit? Do your colleagues seek you out with questions about the quirks of your electronic health record (EHR)? If so, consider turning that know-how into a career in nursing informatics.nursing-informatics-connecting-tech-with-care

Leveraging Bedside Experience

Nursing informatics reads a definition from the ANA’s Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice, 3rd Edition, “is the specialty that transforms data into needed information and leverages technologies to improve health and healthcare equity, safety, quality, and outcomes.”

A background at the bedside is critical for a successful nursing informatics role. “There’s typically some kind of clinical experience involved before jumping into an informatics role,” said Christy St. John, MSN, RN, NI-BC, CPHQ, president of the American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA), in an interview. “To come straight from your studies into informatics is fairly rare.”

A combination of clinical nursing experience and education in informatics is essential, according to Melinda L. Jenkins, PhD, FNP, associate professor and director, nursing informatics specialty, Rutgers School of Nursing. Experience with patient care in the clinical setting is essential to the nursing informatics role because this role is the connection between the clinical setting and the technology piece of healthcare, says Lori Martone-Roberts, DNP, RN, CHSE, director of simulation and professor of the practice of nursing, Wheaton College.

Although training and hands-on experience with technology is important, Michael Mickan, chief nursing informatics officer at Memorial Hermann Health System, looks for experience using the tools on hand and a natural curiosity that leads to self-teaching. He feels that a nurse with that kind of informal experience is usually more successful as a nurse informaticist than those who wait to be formally trained before exploring a new technology.

Range of Skills

You’ll need to bring many skills to a nursing informatics role. Mickan outlines a variety of abilities:

Communications: Nurse informaticists must be able to provide “translation” of patient care, and clinician needs to technology partners as well as technology concepts and requirements to clinical users and communicate with various disciplines.

Problem-solving: Informaticists must be able to identify the real problem with astute observation and critical thinking encompassing people, processes, and technology.

Change management: Nurse informaticists must understand change management strategies and be comfortable facilitating, guiding, and managing change.

Project management: Often, a nurse informaticist facilitates collaboration between clinical and technology partners to solve problems and support the optimal use of technology. To do this effectively, proficiency in project management is a must.

Data analytics: Nurse informaticists must have a solid grasp of the data that validates the problems to be solved and provides the baseline for measuring progress.

Day-to-Day Projects

What kind of work will you do on a daily basis? An example, notes Martone-Roberts, could be to evaluate workflows or improve usability and streamline processes, leading to improved functioning and efficient data capture.

She notes that nurses in the nursing informatics role will work with EHRs in various ways, including managing information and troubleshooting issues when healthcare professionals use the system. Other projects involve training, validating, and reporting data and ensuring the collected data is useful.

She suggests that one example of a project could involve using chatbots to keep a patient engaged and decrease re-hospitalization. Similarly, Mickan outlines workflow analysis and optimization projects, working with clinical decision support systems and EHR implementation and optimization.

Growing Field

When it comes to future demand for nursing informaticists, “I see it as a growing sector,” says St. John.

“I think sometimes it’s a matter of being a little bit more broad in the way we think about nursing informatics,” she notes. Instead of simply searching for the term on a job site, a job search can be more about “opening my eyes to things that might include AI, analyst, or health informatics roles. I think nurse informatics roles will be more in demand in the bigger picture of health technology.”

Education and Certification

According to Martone-Roberts, you’ll need an RN and BSN to serve in a nursing informatics role. Also, she says, a nurse with a master’s degree in healthcare informatics, nursing informatics, or data management will be better positioned to succeed.

As in most nursing roles, certification can enhance your standing. The ANCC’s Informatics Nursing Certification (NI-BC) is one of the foremost certifications specifically focused on the characteristics of the nurse informaticist’s role, says Mickan. While not specifically focused on nursing, he says the HIMSS Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) certification demonstrates knowledge of informatics.

Serving the Patient

Although one of the more technical roles in nursing, nursing informatics still has patient care as the end goal. “At the end of the day, what we’re after is better outcomes for the populations that we’re serving, whether that’s in the inpatient setting, whether that’s in an ambulatory setting, whether that’s in our communities,” says St. John.

Sign up now to get your free digital subscription to Minority Nurse

Careers In Nursing Informatics

Careers In Nursing Informatics

It’s not an exaggeration to say that technology has become the driving force behind every industry and health care is no exception. Clinical informatics is a thriving field for all types of clinical professionals who have expertise in information technology. For nurses, it presents the opportunity to improve patient care by participating in the evolution of health care on a systematic level.

Most nurse informaticists have nursing experience and an advanced degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), with a focus on clinical informatics. Most nursing schools offer these types of degrees today.

The Role of Nurse Informaticist

More rigorous experience and education requirements are warranted for nurse informaticists because often they fill leadership and consultant roles. For example, a nurse informaticist may be part of nursing administration within a hospital, serving as a liaison between staff nursing and the executive team. In this instance, the nurse informaticist serves as a resource for both: educating nurses on effective and efficient use of electronic health records (EHR) and other relevant technology, and translating any issues or insight into a pertinent context for leadership, some of whom may be non-clinical.

Some nurse informaticists find themselves working in the business and technology sectors, completely removed from the clinical setting. In such cases, nurse informaticists are often considered consultants, whereby they serve as clinical experts advising and overseeing the development of new technology relevant to nursing. For instance, companies that develop EHRs hire nurse informaticists to analyze if the implementation and evolution of their technology are feasible in the real world of nursing. Because health care technology is in a state of constant progression, these nurse informaticists often find themselves with permanent positions within these sectors.

Indirect patient care

One consideration for every nurse interested in informatics to consider is the cessation of direct patient care. Although nurse informaticists in clinical settings may interact with patients, there are few if any informatics positions that include typical nursing tasks. Instead, the nurse informaticist’s prior experience as a nurse serves as a boon to implementing positive changes in care that benefit nurses and patients alike. In this way, the nurse informaticist can be considered a provider of indirect patient care, as they are empowered to improve patient care on a greater scale than they otherwise could as bedside nurses, especially as technology has an increased role.

Unique Nursing Jobs Beyond the Bedside

Unique Nursing Jobs Beyond the Bedside

Are you a nurse tired of the bedside grind, but would still love being a nurse? Are you worried that if you leave the bedside you won’t be fulfilled as a nurse?

If so, then consider a unique nursing job that is beyond the bedside that still fulfills you. 

There is life beyond the bedside and really unique opportunities you can take advantage of as a nurse.

Here are 5 unique jobs you can pursue if you need a break from the bedside:

Infusion Therapy: An infusion therapy nurse can work in a hospital, clinic or home setting. Infusion therapy nurses deliver critical intravenous medications to patients in a comfortable setting. Infusions can include anything from chemo to standard IVF’s for dehydration. If a patient is not home bound, an infusion suite can be quite comfortable housing recliners, Wi-Fi, cable TV and private room settings.

Nurse consultant for an architectural firm: A nurse in an architectural firm? Sounds odd doesn’t it? Architects are realizing the value of having a nurse on the team when designing healthcare facilities. Nurses know first hand of where the nurse’s station needs to be within a unit and how a patient room needs to flow in order for a nurse to get their job done.  If you enjoy designing and making workflows easier consider becoming a consultant for healthcare design.

Nurse Epidemiologist: If you like research and have an interest in infectious diseases then try a hand at becoming a nurse epidemiologist. Nurse epidemiologists can work for the CDC or local hospitals tracking disease trends. This position can be especially exciting in the fact that you may have to travel to study disease trends in different areas of the world. Nurse epidemiologists also do a great deal of teaching to physicians, fellow nurses, hospital staff and the public about disease prevention and control.

 Cruise Ship nurse: Cruise ship nursing is a job that comes with a few perks. If you like autonomy mixed in with ER and critical care, then chances are you’ll like being a cruise ship nurse. Medical teams on ships can be slim with only 1 physician to 2 nurses per crew so nurses have to be able to handle any challenge that comes up. Illnesses ranging from MI’s, strokes, broken bones, and generalized seasickness can be the par for a normal day on the ship.  Nurses in this position usually work on contract for a few months at a time.

Informatics: This position is more geared to the nurse that is computer or tech savvy, but still wants to put their nursing background to use. Informatics nurses help design the interface on the electronic health records (EHR) nurse’s use.  A nursing background is key for this position because who knows best what a nurse needs to have access to or chart on other than another nurse?

In addition to working as a FNP, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, available on Amazon. Visit her ReNursing blog at for more ideas on how to reinvent your career


Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Nurses

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Nurses

Most nurses are comfortable using social media to connect with family and friends, but are unsure about how to use it in a professional context. As the world of health informatics collides with the world of social media (or “new media,” as some health IT experts prefer to call it), it has wide-ranging implications for clinicians, patients, and public health policy.

Here are some tips on making the most of social media, brought to you from nurses on the floor—and on the forefront of these new technologies.

1. Let social media curate health news and research studies for you.

You may not be interested in the social aspects of social media (“I don’t care what my coworkers had for lunch!”), but dig deeper and you will see that there’s a world of opportunity and information, according to Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP-RN, owner of the blog, 

“Twitter is my news and information source,” she says. “I follow nurses, doctors, radiologists, and others so they curate the news for me. I can quickly stream the different content areas I’ve set up and skim through them in a couple of minutes, a few times a week.”

There is so much new research to keep up with—social media can save you the time and money (for journal subscriptions, say) that you’d otherwise have to invest, Schoenly adds.

In social media, “it’s all about knowing, liking, and trusting sources,” says Schoenly. If you’ve developed streams from trusted sources, you can quickly come up to speed on important health issues, public policy, and gray areas of clinical practice.

With all the noise out there on the web, how can you single out reliable sources? For starters, has a list of free health care social media resources on 140 topics. They curate them based on recommendations from thousands of health care professionals (a form of “crowdsourcing”) to ensure that these blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels are high quality.

As you tap these resources, be on the lookout for these health care social media “stamps of approval”:

• Health on the Net Foundation (HONcode);

• The Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics (group is no longer active, but designation is still used);

• Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

2. Start your social media journey with training wheels.

Some nurses are so intimidated by social media and fearful about making a mistake that they avoid it all together, or go into “lockdown mode,” blocking their profiles and activity from public view. Example: the nurse manager who has only a Facebook profile (under a phony name) and ventures on it just to see photos of her grandchildren.

That type of avoidance makes some administrators and recruiters wonder about a nurse’s ability to leverage technology, or suspect that it’s a deliberate attempt to hide something unsavory.

Andrea Hill, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, an assistant nurse manager at University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, took a brief course on social media at work. She was instructed to “be careful what you put out there,” so she’s eager to avoid any activity that could be “misconstrued or misjudged,” she says. She is comfortable, however, communicating with fellow staff members on her unit’s Facebook page because of safeguards.

“We have to invite staff to be members, and you can’t necessarily see their personal page unless they invite you. We don’t invite patients or outsiders and wouldn’t accept their request, if that ever happened,” she explains.

Hill also belongs to a Doctorate of Nursing Practice online community sponsored by a professional group and enjoys discussing global health issues there. Locally, she participates on the North Carolina Organization for Nurse Leaders Facebook page as time allows.

3. Empower your patients through medical social media.

“Social media is a whole new tool to empower patients,” says Ramona Nelson, PhD, RN-BC, ANEF, FAAN, author of Social Media for Nurses. “We should be educating patients about it. Nurses should learn about their patient population and possible resources for them. You may be surprised what’s out there and what resources patients are using. For example, where are adolescents going to get informed? I looked at the Seventeen magazine website and it has some very interesting information on various adolescent issues, such as sexual health,” she explains.

According to Nelson, research shows that patients often go to the Internet first to prepare for a doctor’s visit; it helps them compile a list of clear and concise questions. Then, after the visit, they use the Internet to reinforce what the doctor told them. When clinics provide access to a computer and digital resources for patients, patients can make good use of time spent waiting for an appointment, she concludes.

Nurses should also educate patients about privacy concerns and the associated risks of social media, says Nelson. “There are numerous apps you can download onto a phone. They send that information somewhere. Who’s getting that information? If it’s not a covered entity—a software company, and not a physician—that information is not protected by HIPAA.”

Also, she adds that some of that social media user health data is collected, packaged, and sold to organizations, such as pharmaceutical companies. “That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, because it may help develop better drugs. But patients have to be aware when sharing personal information so they can do that safely.”

4. Level the playing field for minority populations.

Social media can make health information more pertinent to minority patients. For example, a Spanish-language diabetes app may appeal to Hispanic patients who reportedly have a higher than average rate of cell phone ownership.

Beyond the technology, minority nurses and those who care for minority populations “should push for culturally sensitive and appropriate information,” says Nelson. “It’s as simple as a parent looking up a rash in a child. They will notice there are many images of light-skinned children with various rashes. But a rash looks different on dark skin rather than light, and the number of examples of children with darker skin is more limited. We need more resources that are sensitive to the race, culture, and health literacy of patients and their families.”

5. Start a nurse blog—or contribute to one.

In 2002, an RN who goes by only “Gina” started Code Blog—Tales of a Nurse (, and has updated it ever since. “I had a personal blog with my husband and was writing nursing type stories on it,” she explains, “and a friend suggested that I start a whole blog just for nursing stories.  So I did.” She was an ER nurse at the time (and in total has 15 years of nursing experience), so the name is a play on words for “code blue.”

“My experience has been extremely positive so far! I wrote more pre-children for sure, but I enjoyed writing about interesting experiences I had and getting reactions and feedback,” she adds. “I’ve met some great nurse bloggers, even in person, and that was a great experience as well. The benefits of blogging are—you get a platform for writing. Sometimes people read it and comment on it! And that’s wonderful. Sometimes it starts an interesting dialogue.”

Have your own compelling nurse tale to share with the whole, wide blogosphere? Gina accepts submissions, sans identifying details that may breach patient confidentiality.  “In other words, use your noggin’,” say her submission guidelines. She’s especially interested in true tales, and stories that are “entertaining and thought-provoking.”

6. Tap into the power of Twitter.

Not a lot of nurses utilize Twitter, but this micro-blogging platform is a favorite of savvy clinicians and recruiters. It’s easier to connect with people here—especially experts and other hard-to-reach folks—because it’s a low-risk, 140-word commitment. From there you can deepen the connection on other platforms (e.g., tweet “would you mind if I connect with you on LinkedIn?”).

For job-seeking nurses, sites such as are especially helpful for getting a jump on other applicants who wait for a job to be posted on a website. Twitter is more immediate, so you get to be the first one in a recruiter’s inbox.

Twitter is opening doorways in the areas of health education and policy. Nurse- entrepreneur Brian Norris, MBA, RM-BC, FHIMSS, CEO of Social Health Insights, took his dozen years in informatics and created a health-related Twitter app, in partnership with an IT developer.  His inspiration? A US Department of Health and Human Services innovation challenge, called “Now Trending #Health in My Community,” sought to mine Twitter data for disease surveillance. They “requested we map 200 set terms, such as flu, influenza, and malaria,” says Norris. His team won the challenge with their app,, which has powerful applications for visualizing and researching disease trends. His company also offers other health information services and products for government and health care organizations.

7. Get LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the single best social media platform for nursing professionals and job seekers. It’s like signing up for a hyper-resume and virtual networking party, and best of all, it’s free. If you haven’t completed a profile yet, do it immediately. And if you already have one, update it and connect to other members so that you fully utilize this awesome tool.

Another way to network with LinkedIn’s more than 259 million members is to find several groups that resonate with you and join them. (There are many nursing groups; usually they are based on specialty.) Then you can contact any of the members at no charge. Otherwise, you have to find someone in your network that has a connection to the member you want to reach and get introduced, or pay a fee to send a direct message.

8. Don’t overdose on social media.

New nursing grads who grew up texting, Skyping, Tweeting, Facebooking, and the like are known as “social media natives” and may have a different set of challenges than older colleagues. They have to shift their mindset from “sharing with 1,000 of my closest friends” to “presenting myself as a nursing professional.”

“I’m 23, so I’m on social media a lot of the time—mostly Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr,” says Dana Kouchel, RN, BSN, a nurse at University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill. “I recently became Facebook friends with some coworkers.  I like seeing their family pictures and posting ones of us together outside of work. Sometimes social media is in the back of my mind, and I have to disable it, otherwise it could be a distraction.”

Kouchel is careful not to share any stories about work on Facebook because “it’s a slippery slope and I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy. We’re patient advocates and I don’t want to jeopardize the nurse-patient relationship. They put their trust in us.” At the same time, she tries to always be “tasteful and professional,” and never include alcohol in pictures, say.

Nursing students and recent graduates are the ones more likely to go back through their various social media profiles and clean them up. What looks like fun at a sorority or frat party may be construed as an example of poor judgment once you’ve entered the professional world.

Jebra Turner is a freelance health and business writer based in Portland, Oregon. She frequently contributes to the Minority Nurse magazine and website. Visit her online at