Problems With Nursing Informatics


Informatics is a young nursing specialty -- the first certification exam was held in 1995. Now that computerized charting and electronic medical records, or EMRs, have become much more common, nurse informaticists face different job challenges. Among these are lack of administrative support and inadequate staffing, problems with integration of various electronic software systems and the need to work with a wide variety of health care disciplines.

Language and Terminology

  • Nurse informaticists have a foot in nursing and a foot in information management. This hybrid specialty requires the nurse to use her clinical knowledge and expertise to develop, test and manage hardware and software used to document clinical care. She may also be the liaison between clinical staff, including physicians, and IT or management staff. If someone is unhappy with the EMR, the problem is likely to land in the nurse informaticist’s lap. In addition, the nurse informaticist must deal with different systems of nursing terminology used to describe nursing activities.

Integrating Systems

  • Integration of EMRs and other forms of electronic data systems is another challenge for the nurse informaticist. Integration is the term used to describe multiple streams of information coming to the same place. For example, an EMR that is integrated with a lab system can provide real-time lab results in the EMR. Since many systems are proprietary and designed in isolation, this can pose major challenges for the nurse informaticist. However, respondents in a 2014 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS, survey ranked this problem lower than organization and operation issues; only 12 percent said it was their biggest challenge.

Teaching New Users

  • The variability of documentation skills nurses bring to the field has an impact on a nurse informaticist’s job. Crystal Dee Fuller, a nursing professor at Central Alabama Community College Coosa Valley School of Nursing, notes that each school of nursing may use a different documentation system. Newly graduated nurses may or may not have used an EMR, and the EMR for which nurse informaticists are responsible for may not be the one they trained on. It falls to the nurse informaticist to teach new staff nurses how to use the EMR correctly to ensure that documentation is accurate and complete.

Organization and Operations

  • On the job, the biggest challenges for the nurse informaticists, according to the HIMSS survey, come from organizational and operational issues. Nurse informaticists ranked lack of administrative support and staff resources as the top two barriers to their success in the field. These two issues may have become bigger problems over time, as they were ranked third and fourth in the previous HIMSS survey, conducted in 2011.

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