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From Iron Lungs to Modern-Day Ventilators: How Nursing Informatics Can Bridge Technology Gaps

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Nurse informatics bridging the nurse shortage gaps in rural areas.

Nursing informatics is an evolving specialty area that can be applied to all areas of professional nursing practice and settings. Technology services will continue to require greater assistance from nursing informatics. Informatics can help bridge technology gaps. 

From Iron Lungs to Modern-Day Ventilators: How Nursing Informatics Can Bridge Technology Gaps

Author: Bonny Kehm, PhD, RN Faculty Program Director in the School of Nursing 

It is not uncommon for nurses and students to wonder, “What the heck is nursing informatics” and “What can a nurse with a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics do?” Nursing informatics encompasses many different aspects of nursing. Nurses use informatics every day in health care, from electronic health records, smartphones, and telehealth to data analytics, data tracking, and smart cards, to name just a few. 

To understand nursing informatics, one must define it. As defined by the American Nurses Association, “Nursing informatics is a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice. Nursing informatics supports nurses, consumers, patients, the interprofessional health care team, and other providers in their decision-making in all roles and settings to achieve desired outcomes. This support is accomplished through the use of information structures, information processes, and information technology.” 

Nursing informatics is an evolving specialty area and can be applied to all areas of professional nursing practice and settings. The integration of nursing science, computer science, and information science assists in the use of electronic health record-keeping and has allowed facilities to link to other systems, which expands communication and interprofessional collaboration, best practice alerts, and knowledge acquisition and wisdom. Nurses use data and information every day in their nursing roles. Nurses take data in various forms and convert it to knowledge. Nurses then act on this knowledge in providing care or services. This process of converting data to knowledge, and finally to wisdom through the use of technology, is instrumental in bridging the nurse shortage gaps and access to care in rural areas.

The use of technology and data-driven information is no more evident than in the current expansion of telehealth services. Telehealth services will continue to require great assistance from nursing informatics. Many facilities, organizations, and health care providers have all transitioned to telehealth and use smartphones or other smart devices to allow nurses to speak, see, and provide care while safely maintaining social distancing and other safety protocols. The expansion of technology eases the nursing shortage gaps in all areas by providing easier access to nurses for patients and reduces inequitable access to health services. By removing the geographical restrictions of where a nurse or patient is physically located, telehealth has the potential to revolutionize health care. Additionally, a nurse with a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics can improve patient care and satisfaction without the traditional on-site patient appointments and long waits. Practitioners of nursing informatics can examine data to measure the success of solutions while still being mindful of ethical concerns, so patient efficacy and protection is improved. 

Nursing informatics also allows for the quick exchange of information that can affect entire communities of people. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced health care to improve technology and informatic needs. For instance, COVID-19 relied heavily on nursing informatics interactive maps that track cases of the virus around the world. The public health informatics nurse who is responsible for the application of information and computer science, coupled with technology to public health practice, learning, and research, has become instrumental in fighting the pandemic. The informatics nurse can use knowledge about threats to community health to improve pandemic planning, decision-making, allocation of resources, and care delivery. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has fully demonstrated the importance of informatics and how vital the informatics nurse is and will continue to be. The informatics nurse plays a role in not only ensuring technology is working, but also in educating others on access to technology. Continuing care and managing patients outside the hospital will continue to be important to decrease high patient volumes and risks of infection during the pandemic and beyond. The need for a master’s-prepared nurse informaticist will continue to increase as home-based monitoring of patients increases the need to provide real-time feedback. The use of nursing informatics allows for coordination of care and enables patients and nurses to remain safe yet connected.

The future of informatics holds an unprecedented opportunity for nurses and students. Nurses can impact technology throughout nursing and health care and use technology to bridge the nurse shortage gaps and access to care. Investments in technology such as telehealth, public health communication, big data, and artificial intelligence, for example, will continue to expand, and the need for nurse informaticists will grow. Regardless of the specific area of nursing practice, the ability to read, process, and interpret data will be always part of health care. Challenge yourself today and explore the rapidly expanding possibility of a career as a nurse informaticist with a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics from Excelsior College. 

This is a sponsored article brought to you by allnurses.com in conjunction with the advertiser. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect allnurses.com, its parent company, or its staff.

Excelsior College (excelsior.edu) is an accredited, nonprofit online college focused on helping adults complete their degrees and advance their careers. The college contributes to the development of a diverse, educated, and career-ready society by valuing lifelong learning with an emphasis on serving individuals historically underrepresented in higher education. Founded in 1971, Excelsior meets students where they are – academically and geographically – removing obstacles to the educational goals of adults pursuing continuing education and degree completion. Our pillars include innovation, flexibility, academic excellence, and integrity. Learn more at excelsior.edu.

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5 Comment(s)

Joe V

Specializes in Programming / Strategist / Web Development. Has 25 years experience.

If I knew about this when I was in school (programming) I may have taken this route. I took Anatomy I & II, Biology I & II, and Chemistry. I was always one of the first out the door on completion of test. 😉 I loved this stuff. 

I remember my science professor mentioning that there were many avenues for "tech guys" in the Science field. I didn't give it much thought but wow - missed opportunity. 

I'm interested in learning more about this field for my son - he is interested in medicine but not 100% gung-ho about it. He's definitely a 'tech guy' but doesn't want to follow in my shoes. This may be something that pique his interest.

So what does one normally have to do to become a nurse informaticist? BSN? Or, do you need an MSN? Job market?

Lisa Brooks, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Informatics, Managed Care. Has 15 years experience.

I am so excited to see this article! There has definitely been a lot more interest in Nursing Informatics since the pandemic started and telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and contact tracing became necessities. I am a masters-prepared Informatics Nurse, and I have found my career to be fulfilling, interesting, and constantly changing as technology changes. Healthcare is slow to adopt technology compared to industries like travel or banking. But that is where I believe Nursing Informatics professionals have a lot of opportunity.

@Joe V It sounds like this could be a good field for your son if he is interested in healthcare and technology. He will need to first become a nurse, and having hands-on clinical experience is extremely helpful for Informatics Nurses. I know for myself that bedside experience allows me to step into other nurse's shoes as we design systems.

The MSN is not required - there are a lot of Informatics Nurses (including many who visit this site) who got into the field through a project in their clinical setting, and then built a career in health technology. Where I see the MSN being helpful is if your son is interested in certain leadership roles. The employers in my area (NYC) generally require a master's degree for Director level and above.

I actually recently wrote an article on my site about my transition from bedside nursing to Nursing Informatics if helpful: https://writingfuturehealth.com/how-I-went-from-bedside-nurse-to-informatics-nurse/

Joe V

Specializes in Programming / Strategist / Web Development. Has 25 years experience.

30 minutes ago, Lisa Brooks said:

The MSN is not required - there are a lot of Informatics Nurses (including many who visit this site) who got into the field through a project in their clinical setting, and then built a career in health technology. Where I see the MSN being helpful is if your son is interested in certain leadership roles. The employers in my area (NYC) generally require a master's degree for Director level and above.

I actually recently wrote an article on my site about my transition from bedside nursing to Nursing Informatics if helpful: https://writingfuturehealth.com/how-I-went-from-bedside-nurse-to-informatics-nurse/

@Lisa Brooks That is valuable information. THANK YOU! 👍 👍 👍

I will be talking with my son about this. I think he will find it very interesting.

Thanks for the article link - I will definitely read.

Lisa Brooks, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Informatics, Managed Care. Has 15 years experience.

5 hours ago, Joe V said:

@Lisa Brooks That was a great read! Very in-depth and found answers to questions I had. Love your writing style!

Thank you so much! And so glad it was helpful. Good luck to your son!