By Suzi Birz, principal, HiQ Analytics, LLC
At the recent Health Information Management and Systems
Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference, held Feb. 25 to March 1 in New Orleans, more
than 120 vendors defined themselves by the key words “nursing informatics” or
“nursing documentation.” Based on this large presence, it was no mystery that
nurses are in demand as nurse informaticists, hired by provider organizations,
vendors and consulting firms to advise, guide, train and implement information
Nurses were among the thousands in attendance in New Orleans.
Nurses came as attendees, presenters and vendor representatives. Building on its
history, the HIMSS Annual Conference education sessions and exhibits exposed the
attendees to a breadth of new ideas, solutions and technologies. Each year,
thousands leave with new ways to approach their current jobs and new solutions
to the challenges.
In 2006, the Annual Conference changed the career path of at
least one nurse. Sommer Cornell, RN, BSN, clinical specialist at SIS, a provider
of clinical information systems for surgery departments, located in Alpharetta,
Georgia, attended the conference as a practicing nurse and left with the idea
that if she “moved into informatics [she] would have a voice and impact the work
lives of nurses working in the operating room.” Cornell found that vendors were
trying to hire nurses.
Now, Cornell finds herself working for a vendor, supporting
the sales effort doing product demonstrations and meeting with clients.
“I see nurses getting a great foundation by knowing the
product and then branching out to more technical roles supporting the
development of new products, research roles and taking an activist role lobbying
for money to support nurse informaticists in all health care organizations,” she
In 2007, attendees at the Annual Conference were offered the
opportunity to attend a session entitled, “A Burgeoning Partnership: The Future
of Nursing Informatics.” During this educational session, Paul Foelsch, MBA,
FHIMSS, vice president for information services and chief information officer at
Mercy Hospital, Iowa City, Iowa, teamed with Jody Gunn, MSN, RN, IS application
manager at Mercy Hospital, to discuss the evolving role and the contributions of
the hospital’s nurse informaticists as well as the partnership between the nurse
informaticists and the chief information officer.
The Role and the Future
Following the presentation, Foelsch stated that “if a provider
or vendor functions without a nurse informaticist, they are handicapped. The
time to get one is now.”
With respect to the role, Gunn and Cornell agree that the
nurse informaticist serves as “translator” and an interpreter, and validates the
clinical impact of technologies. Foelsch added that he “would not go back to a
time without a nurse informaticist. There are too many topics that are
clinical—from pay-for-performance to implementing wireless technologies.”
Gunn and Foelsch predict that the role of the nurse
informaticists will only grow in the future as technology becomes even more
integral in the delivery of quality care and in the business of health care.
“Nurse informaticists will face an increasing demand on their
time to address clinical workflow, interpret data and work on standardization
projects,” Gunn explained. “With these new responsibilities, the traditional
role of the nurse informaticist as project manager may fade.”
Foelsch sees a climb into the “C-Suite.”
“Over time the path has taken nurses from clinical to project
manager to more technical roles,” he said. “As that happens, we can expect to
see the percentage of nurse informaticists in CIO roles increase.”
Foelsch and Gunn cited four trends supporting the growth of
the nurse informaticist’s role, including point of care technologies; greater
integration of health care and administrative systems; quality outcomes and
measurement; and compliance.
It took Cornell about six months to adjust to her new role.
“The most important skills are problem solving and critical
thinking, easily adapting to change, a desire to be involved in creating future
technologies and an excitement about automation,” she said. “Some of these were
developed and honed in nursing school.”
Gunn agreed: “Skills learned in nursing school provide the
foundation for success; however, change-management training is critical for a
nurse moving from care provider to nurse informaticist.”
Foelsch added: “Broad courses in hospital/health care major
issues and IT trends are also essential. When looking for nurse informaticist
partners, the CIO looks for communication skills, clinical background and
experience, technical aptitude, enthusiasm and passion.”
In summary, Gunn noted: “Today’s nurse informaticists are
planting trees so future generations can enjoy the shade.”
Mercy Hospital Iowa City
© 2007. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.