I was recently interviewed for a graduate school assignment by a nurse who is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. I was happy to participate in the process and find it a great opportunity to help demystify nursing and healthcare informatics. Before I answer the question, it is important to frame informatics according to the definition.
Informatics can appear to be a field that is unclear and misunderstood if you've not had the opportunity to interact, participate in some way and/or work in the field.
I remember the first time I hear the word informatics, I was a clinical analyst at the time in the IT department (not nursing). I had been working on an EHR (electronic health record) project for some time and heard the word used by a nursing leader and IT leader. I didn't know what it meant at that time.
However, the questions I was asking at that time were what prompted the introduction to informatics.
A common misconception is that informatics is about the computer or the EHR. While both have a role in the science of informatics, they are just one part.
Informatics is the use of data and information to generate new knowledge in nursing and healthcare (or any other discipline of interest - in this case I am referring to nursing and healthcare).
Nowhere in that definition do you see the word computer or EHR.
The computer is a hardware device and the EHR is a software application. Both are tools that are used to help manage the data, information, knowledge and wisdom in healthcare settings.
By framing one's mindset around the definition, we have the opportunity to open our eyes and minds to the many opportunities to create new solutions to address the areas where we continue to need more informatics and IT support to delivery the highest quality care.
This leads me answer the question I was asked, "What do I like most about informatics?"
When you have the foundational knowledge of the science paired with the expertise and skill set to be able to understand the clinical needs in conjunction with the IT capabilities, you are in a position to help find new solutions to challenges affecting others.
I often describe it as solving complex puzzles and using your creativity to consider how the functionality can support the data and information needs paired with the workflow needs of the users.
There is nothing quite like being able to work with clients and users, hearing their needs, understanding what is possible, and coming to a solution that can meet the intended goal.
For me, that is what I like most about informatics.
There will always be more that you might want to see or do but that can always come in the near or distant future.
Informatics is not a box to be checked. Informatics is an ever present need in nursing and healthcare and should be seen as such to help transform care while keeping abreast of emerging technologies.
Tiffany Kelley PhD MBA RN
Founder & CEO
iCare Nursing Solutions LLC