Exploring career paths in a high-demand specialty
“Nursing informatics (NI) is the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice.”
— American Nurses Association, Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice
SWAT Team to the Rescue
Back when electronic health record (EHR) systems were first rolled out, they were expected to save time charting — except that they didn’t.
In response, Huntington Hospital in Pasadena called in the SWAT Team. No, the Huntington Hospital SWAT Team doesn’t carry guns or wear balaclavas. Formally known as the Safety Workflow Assessment and Technology Team, they’re four informaticists whose job is to relieve nurses’ technological headaches.
Amberle Bond, RN, BSN, CCRN, is a founding member of the group. When Huntington implemented its EHR in 2014, the SWAT Team focused on making the new technology easier to use by streamlining documentation and fixing issues like interoperability.
Over time, Bond and her team developed a partnership with the hospital’s information technology (IT) staff. Now, instead of IT making unilateral decisions, they seek nurses’ input and get approval from the SWAT Team.
“Nursing informatics plays a huge part in the design and implementation of new workflows for bedside staff,” Bond says. “We take the smart IT folks and the knowledge of bedside nursing and bring it all together to find products that work for both.”
Building a Tech Team
The role of nurses in informatics has only increased as healthcare technology has proliferated. “Getting the technology in was the last 10 years,” says Ellen Pollack, RN-BC, MSN, chief information officer (CIO) of UCLA Health Sciences. “Now, it’s about what we do with the technology to help make patients safer and clinicians more efficient.”
As CIO, Pollack oversees the role of technology in research and academics as well as the clinical side. That’s made nursing informatics a growing specialty.
“Now, we have nurses in every nook and cranny of the organization,” Pollack explains. “They are programmers, educators and data scientists. Even the director of business operations is a nurse. Having nurses onboard makes a stronger tech team.
Robust Job Opportunities
The pandemic has further accelerated the demand for technology and for nurses who understand how to use it.
Candice Ney, RN-BC, MSN, is the lead operational workflow specialist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. She points to a need for more remote monitoring, less unnecessary documentation, more clinical decision support tools, and ways to connect patients to their providers through online portals and mobile devices.