The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines nursing informatics as the integration of nursing, computer and information sciences to manage and distribute information, data and knowledge in the practice of nursing. This integration helps to better serve patients while assisting nurses and other health care providers in making effective, timely decisions regarding patient care. The ANA designated nursing informatics as a specialty practice in 1992 and thereafter developed a certification process first introduced in 1995.

Understanding Theory

Students that take coursework in nursing informatics will begin by learning the theories behind nursing informatics. Theory will cover the computer and human interface components, the ethics involved in nursing informatics, ergonomics, and confidentiality and privacy. In addition, students will study and learn about the role of patient care as well as how to apply nursing informatics theory to nursing practice.

Applying Technology to Nursing Practice

Students that study nursing informatics will also need to understand how to apply technology effectively to the practice of nursing. Students will learn which technologies to use under various situations and how to best apply those technologies to manage and communicate various types of information and data. Students will also learn to apply data principles and to document information appropriately within various computer applications designed specifically for nursing and health care administration.

Developing Competency Plans

Once students gain a solid background in nursing informatics theory and its technological application, they will then gain hands-on experience customizing and developing competency and professional development plans. The objective of competency planning is to meet personal preferences, as outlined by a health care provider, while aligning the competency plan to meet the educational requirements of staff and patients. Students will also create client educational development plans. This process will involve exploring the use of information technology to document data, collaborate, network and make decisions, thereby developing an informatics plan to meet information needs in a specific environment. This might be a real-world scenario or a case study, depending on the specific course requirements.

Assessing Competency Plans

Students will finish a nursing informatics course by learning how to implement the competency plan and how to assess that plan to gauge progress after implementation. The objective, once a plan is put into action, is to make sure the plan accurately documents the right information efficiently while communicating that information effectively and in a timely manner. Students will learn to recognize when a plan does not meet those objectives, how to identify where the breakdown is occurring in the information chain and how to fix it to meet its objectives.