Nurse Leaders Using Informatics: The Past, Present and Future

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Healthcare informatics has become essential to nurse leadership.

For decades, the nurse manager’s primary role was to oversee nursing staffs and their patients. Today, nurse managers have assumed additional responsibilities including integrating healthcare information technology into the workplace and assisting the nursing staff to master informatics competencies to promote patient well-being.

Healthcare informatics — leveraging healthcare technology to improve patient care goals — has become essential to nurse leadership. The American Nurses Association (ANA) said nursing informatics is used to identify, define, coordinate and communicate data, information and knowledge in nursing practice. Studies show nurse leaders who use technology improve outcomes for all stakeholders, including other nurses, consumers, patients and healthcare teams.

The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) said the impact of technology reaches beyond patient care and clinical workflow to the quality, safety and financial well-being of health systems.

“Emerging nursing informatics leadership roles engage in the necessary transformation activities and bridge the new care delivery models into clinical practice with the right technology solutions for organizational transformations,” AONE said in a position paper.

By definition, the goal of nursing management is to actualize leadership functions, including informatics research, over nurses in practice. As advanced practice healthcare leaders, nurses with their DNP are positioned to use informatics research for the betterment of patient care. With the growing importance of implementing informatics into patient care, the leading nursing programs — such as Duquesne University’s online DNP program — provide multiple opportunities for advanced students to put the rapid changes into practice.

The Evolution of Informatics in Nursing

Nursing informatics, also called health information technology, can be traced to the earliest days of the modern nursing movement under Florence Nightingale. During the Crimean War, Nightingale began documenting patient care to track health outcomes. In 2004, President George W. Bush’s administration mandated the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) so vital information could be shared among providers. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act required that providers adopt and demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs to continue receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding.

In the past decade, providers have been working to use technologies productively to benefit patients and medical staff. Many of the efforts have been focused on developing and delivering informatics competencies to nurses at all levels.

In 2006, a group of prominent nurses launched the Technology Informatics Guiding Educational Reform (TIGER) Initiative to advance the use of information technology (IT) skills and informatics competencies in healthcare. TIGER quickly picked up steam, earning the support of organizations that include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Essential Informatics Competencies for Nurse Leaders

TIGER determined that nurses should follow three informatics literacies to provide quality care:

1. Mastery of basic computer competencies

TIGER found that nurses need basic computer skills to assist patients. The organization said nurse computer competencies should focus on:

  • The concepts of information and communication technology (ICT)
  • Using computers and managing files
  • Using word processing and spreadsheet applications
  • Making presentations
  • Web browsing and basic communication

2. Comprehension of information literacy

The American Library Association (ALA) defines information literacy as the ability to recognize when information is needed and to be able to locate, evaluate and use the information as necessary.

TIGER determined that nurse information literacy competencies should focus on:

  • Determining the nature and amount of information needed
  • Accessing the information quickly and efficiently
  • Evaluating the information and sources
  • Using the information for specific purposes
  • Assessing the value of the information used

3. Understanding information management literacy

Information management is the process of collecting, processing, presenting and communicating data as knowledge or information. TIGER said information management competencies for nurses should focus on:

  • Understanding and verbalizing the importance of various types of health information systems (systems used to manage healthcare data) in clinical practice
  • Using due care to protect patient privacy and the security of health information systems
  • Understanding the principles, policies and procedure that health information systems use to manage data

Informatics for the Future of Nurse Leadership

TIGER, in its “Usability and Clinical Application Design Collaborative Team” report, recommended hospital administrators and leadership teams construct a vision that allows nurses and interprofessional colleagues to use informatics and emerging technologies in practice.

Other professional organizations, including the National League for Nursing (NLN), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the ANA, also recommended nursing leaders take charge of the evolving role of informatics in the field. The organizations suggest:

  • Creating a process that ensures all nurses adopt and adhere to the TIGER policies and principles
  • Conducting research and exploring how the top medical and administrative staff can utilize informatics
  • Building a culture that embraces informatics as a regular part of practice and supports professional development, mentoring, education and career path exploration.

As technology and informatics continue to evolve, nurse leaders will be increasingly expected to put technology into practice. Today, nurses who are studying to earn a DNP degree often take coursework directly that will advance the future of technology.

At Duquesne University, DNP students learn about healthcare information systems, the impact of EHRs on healthcare and how informatics plays a crucial role in medical advances.

About Duquesne University’s Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Program

Duquesne University’s online DNP program provides registered nurses with the opportunity to earn an advanced degree from a prestigious nursing program. Students can continue their careers while taking online coursework and engaging in one-of-a-kind residency programs in Italy or Ireland.

The program’s rigorous curriculum builds on current skills to prepare graduates for a comprehensive understanding of the field while gaining leadership skills. For more information, visit DU’s online DNP program website.

 

Sources:

Informatics Competencies for Nurses & Nurse Leaders The “Gold” Standards: New Jersey Hospital Association

Position Paper: Nursing Informatics Executive Leader: American Organization of Nurse Executives

Informatics competencies for nurse leaders: protocol for a scoping review: BMJ Open

History of the TIGER Initiative: Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

The Evolution of TIGER Competencies and Informatics Resources:

Informatics Competencies for Every Practicing Nurse: Recommendations from the TIGER Collaborative: TIGER

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education: American Library Association

Designing Usable Clinical Information Systems: TIGER