The health care industry's shift toward EHRs has spiked demand for nurse informaticists, a position that combines a nurse's traditional skillset with expertise in systems, analysis, and design, Jeff Kauflin writes for Forbes.
Defining the role
According to Joyce Sensmeier, VP of informatics at HIMSS, most hospitals now have EHRs, but a hospital can't rely on engineers or traditional IT workers to introduce and manage these systems because they don't have the clinical expertise to prevent potentially life-threatening technical errors.
So instead, hospitals are turning to nurse informaticists, who generate and oversee the processes by which people use EHRs. These staff members, whose annual salaries average more than $100,000, dedicate time to streamlining EHR processes for nurses and caregivers. They also vigorously test their data to ensure the accurate and timely transmission of data between devices and systems, such as making sure that vital signs measured by a heart monitor are correctly integrated into a patient's EHR.
In addition, a nurse informaticist helps manage a hospital's research projects. That role is particularly helpful as the U.S. health system moves toward value-based care, Kauflin writes, given that the shift requires hospitals to carefully monitor how patients respond to care.
A growing field
While the demand for nurse informaticists is growing rapidly, the position itself isn't new, Kauflin writes. According to Sensmeier, "the American Nurses Association blessed it as a specialty in the early 1990s," when hospitals first began adopting EHR systems.
But "the field has really exploded since then," Sensmeier said. According to recent HIMSS research, one-third of surveyed health care organizations said they employed a chief nursing information officer, a position that typically oversees the hospital's nurse informaticists and involves monitoring health IT systems. In fact, in Sensmeier's opinion, every hospital in the country likely has at least one nurse informaticist.
Where to start
According to Sensmeier, people interested in the nurse informaticist role should look to the Midwest, the East Coast, and the West Coast. The Midwest in particular, she said, has "a lot of the biggest health systems," and "to be paying nurses this salary, it takes a strong health system." She also said people should look to some universities and health technology startups, such as KenSci.
If interested in the role, Sensmeier recommended that people first get a nursing degree, garner some real-world nursing experience, and then attend grad school for a master's degree in either health or nursing informatics (Kauflin, Forbes, 6/13).
Why the EHR life cycle is just like raising a child
A successful EHR system requires budget, resources, and planning—not only before it goes live, but after as well.
In fact, the process of implementing, deploying, maintaining, and optimizing an EHR system is similar to that of raising a child—each stage of the process requiring a unique subset of people to ensure its success. Learn more about the seven stages of the EHR life cycle in this infographic.