In this blog post, I am reflecting on what nursing informatics means for myself and nursing graduates in Ontario. Informatics is an entry to practice competence for graduates that must be threaded throughout our curriculum in order for graduates to function in the real-world (Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, 2012). It is essential that graduates have the ability to use both nursing knowledge and technology in their day to day practice.
What is Informatics?
Nursing informatics is one component of a larger multidisciplinary field called health informatics. Health informatics requires competence in areas of information science (technology and information management), health sciences (health system and terminology), and management sciences (project management, change management, and customer relationships) (El Morr, 2018). There are a variety of career opportunities in this field.
Technology is part of every nursing role I can think of in one way or another. Nurses need to be technologists. The role of a nurse has dramatically changed with the advancement of information and communication technology at the bedside (Canadian Nurses Association, 2006). This advancement has meant that technological competence is imperative for nurses.
The Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Nursing Informatics Association (2017) indicates that nursing informatics integrates the management of knowledge within the nursing profession with technology in order to achieve health promotion.
“Nursing Informatics science and practice integrates nursing, its information and knowledge and their management with information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families and communities worldwide.”International Medical Informatics Association, 2009
This use of technology enables better decision making, decreased costs, and facilitates patient-centred care. There are many aspects of nursing informatics that are constantly evolving as more technology is developed. The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (2012) acknowledges that although the definition of nursing informatics has varied over time the common elements agreed on are in the definition above.
I believe that nursing informatics is an essential field of study. However, I have seen the need for improvement in how technology is used in a real-world setting. Technology needs to make practice more efficient and effective. While electronic health care records have great potential to improve how patient data is managed, they still need to evolve. They are not always user-friendly. As ZDoggMD describes in the video below there is potential for technology to be a barrier for patient-centred healthcare. The technology needs to work.
There is also a risk for electronic data to be hacked by a virus. We need to be cognizant of these risks as nurses. The clip below discusses a real-world example of a virus that impacted Northern Ontario Hospitals. This clip speaks to how essential emergency preparedness is to protect patient data.
Technology fails. I have seen it repeatedly in teaching … that is why we need to have back-up plans, especially when we are dealing with sensitive patient data.
In Ontario, nurses are using the following technologies (among others) in their practice
- Electronic health records
- High fidelity simulation in education and health care settings
- Educational technology
- Ontario Telemedicine Network
- Online continuing education
- Social media
Nurses must graduate with foundational skills including the ability to use devices, the internet, shared networks/drives, and possess other basic technological skill sets (Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, 2012). When I am teaching I offer students the opportunity to build these skills by encouraging: the use of technology for self-directed learning, creation of multimedia presentations, appropriate use of e-mail, and social media.
It is important that graduates know how to use word-processors, properly upload files, and create electronic presentations. It is also important that nurses have the ability to critically appraise on-line resources and how online information is being used.
I also role model the use of technology in my practice by using tools like YouTube to show students how to improve their informatics skills. When teaching, using like Mentimeter, H5P, gamification, Google slides, drive, and forums with students exposes them to technology in safe and inviting ways. Through exposure to technology in their classes, students gradually develop and improve the skills they need for the real world. While reflecting on these requisite skills that graduates require I have been thinking that perhaps I should use more social media in my teaching. I need to be careful to balance a student’s right to opt out, privacy, and using too much technology. Too much at once can be overwhelming for students, particularly if I am an outlier in my use of technology.
Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. (2012). Nursing informatics entry-to-practice competencies for registered nurses. Retrieved from https://www.casn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Nursing-Informatics-Entry-to-Practice-Competencies-for-RNs_updated-June-4-2015.pdf
Canadian Nurses Association. (2006). E-nursing strategy for Canada. Retrieved from https://www.cna-aiic.ca/~/media/cna/page-content/pdf-en/e-nursing-strategy-forcanada.pdf?la=en
Canadian Nurses Association, & Canadian Nursing Informatics Association. (2017). Joint position statement: Nursing informatics. Retrieved from
El Morr, C. (2018). Introduction to health informatics. Toronto, ON: Canadian Scholars.
International Medical Informatics Association. (2009). IMIA-NI definition of nursing informatics updated. Retrieved from https://imianews.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/imia-ni-definition-ofnursing-informatics-updated/
Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. (2012). Nurse educator eHealth resource. Retrieved from https://rnao.ca/sites/rnao-ca/files/eHealth_Faculty_Resource.pdf