Nurse informaticists boost leadership role

By Bernie Monegain
01:33 PM

With the increasing adoption of healthcare information technology, nursing informatics - which combines nursing practice with computer expertise - is playing a growing role in patient care, nursing leaders told attendees at the annual nursing informatics symposium Sunday at HIMSS11.

The theme: Informatics Role in Bridging the Quality Chasm, had nurses thinking and talking about how far the industry has come in closing the quality gap. The adoption of CPOE, barcoding and other technologies has enabled huge advances in patient safety, said Mary Beth Mitchell, chief nursing information officer at Texas Health Resources in Dallas.
As she sees it, that's good news. However, she warns against complacency.
"We have to be careful we don't rely on technology too much," she said. There's danger in assuming that the technology will "save us from everything."

Joyce Sensmeier, vice president of informatics for HIMSS, noted  "The role of the informatics nurse has matured quite a bit over the past 10 years." Nurse informaticists today are focused on connectivity and interoperability. Past surveys showed nurse informaticists cited the cost of healthcare IT systems as a barrier to uptake, while today financial concerns take a back seat to a focus on connectivity and interoperability, Sensmeier said.

In tandem with the symposium, HIMSS released Sunday a new Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, which found that increases in salary and scope of responsibilities compared to the previous survey three years ago suggest nurse informaticists are playing an increasingly key role in the implementation of healthcare IT.

Some key findings of the survey:

  • The average salary for nurse informaticists has jumped 30 percent in six years to more than $98,000.

  • Nurse informaticists see lack of integration between healthcare IT systems as the biggest barrier to success. Previously, lack funding was identified as the main barrier.

  • More than half of nurse informaticists list systems implementation as their primary responsibility, indicative of the growing importance of their role.

"The increase in salary demonstrates the industry's recognition of the importance of nursing informatics as a growing and valued profession," said Sensmeier. "The fact that informatics nurses see lack of systems integration as their primary obstacle suggests they understand the potential impact on patient safety when information cannot move seamlessly from system to system, facility to facility."