CNIO role on the rise

Integrating nursing science, computer science and information science to manage data and, ultimately, wisdom, nursing informatics has a bright future.

Nursing, IT combo makes for healthcare power team

WASHINGTON– What is a chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO), some people ask, and how important is one? In this era of healthcare payment realignment and evidence-based medicine, key stakeholders say the CNIO position is critical.

According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), nursing informatics (NI) is a specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice. NI supports consumers, patients, nurses, and other providers in their decision-making in all roles and settings.

Though the title of chief nursing informatics officer is a relatively new one, CNIOs can already be found in health systems, at health IT vendor companies, in the government and as policymakers in nursing associations.

For this story, Healthcare IT News interviewed one of each and found them all to be seriously devoted to nursing, on the cutting edge of what IT has to offer healthcare as a whole, and fiercely committed to making IT work for better workflow and patient care.

Florence Nightingale: the first CNIO?

The concept of nurses as collectors of patient data is not new. Most people have heard of the famous nurse from the 1800s, Florence Nightingale, also known as “the Lady with the Lamp,” who went tirelessly from bedside to bedside. But not many realize she was a precursor to the modern-day CNIO.

Nightingale (1820-1910), the originator of modern nursing, meticulously collected data on healthcare and used it to improve outcomes. She was the founder of several data analysis tools still used today, according to ANA. That’s why in 2008, the ANA designated Nightingale’s birthday – May 12 – as Nursing Informatics Day, making it part of the annually recognized Nurses Week.

If she were alive today, Nightingale would likely be pleased to find that in 2012, the CNIO position is growing in popularity, but at the same time, she may be dismayed to find the role still faces some barriers after all these years.

CNIO recruitment gaining traction

Linda Hodges, vice president and leader of information technology search practice at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer says more and more organizations are recruiting CNIOs. An increasing number of nurses are setting their sights specifically on attaining a CNIO position, and prominent nursing schools have added courses designed to train them.

“This is something that has become a passion for many people who went into nursing but also love IT,” she says. “They can see how this role can impact care, especially with the evolving new role of accountable care organizations.”