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Nursing Informatics Explained

According to American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), the scientific practice of Nursing Informatics is designed to integrate nursing, including its information and knowledge, with the good management of information and communication technologies. AMIA, which was formed in 1998, says that this is to promote the health in families and communities, as well as individual people on a worldwide basis. This definition was put forward by the IMIA Special Interest Group on Nursing Informatics in 2009). The application of nursing informatics knowledge something that is not only empowering healthcare practitioners around the globe, but something that patients should take an interested in since it helps to achieve a more patient-centred healthcare system.

In the UK, most – although by no means all - nursing practice is conducted under the auspices of the National Health Service (NHS). The National Nursing Informatics Strategic Taskforce is the leading NHS body in the field. According to the NHS, information sharing is an important issue not only for nurses, but for midwives and other types of health visitors, too. All types of healthcare professionals use information on a daily basis in order to deliver care and to improve key services. Information, they say, is also put to use to develop and deliver educational programmes in the field of healthcare and also to undertake research projects. The task force, it should be noted, are keen to stress that it is nurses who are at the centre of this information, both in terms collecting data and of sharing it. According to the NHS’s group, the quick growing field of nursing informatics brings into sharp focus the primary role that nurses play in the delivery of healthcare in times which are much more technologically based than ever before.

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Whilst the National Nursing Informatics Strategic Taskforce is made up of a sample of healthcare professional with much expertise as well as opinion leaders in the area, their focus is on all nurses, midwives and health visitors. The task force attempts to encourage all healthcare deliverers to become engaged with the use of information in all areas of their work. Not only this, but the group is looking to develop nursing informatics leaders from talented practitioners and by mentoring them in the field. There is also a specific NHS group that deal with nursing informatics for healthcare professionals in the field of mental health.

On both sides of the Atlantic, as well as elsewhere around the world, nursing informatics is designed to provide core purposes which will ultimately lead to improved patient care. These include the advancement of the science of informatics as well as promotion of education surrounding informatics amongst nurses. On top of this, most informatics organisations also promote health information technology and seek to ensure that is used in the most effective ways possible that improves patient health and healthcare. Another area of promotion is that of informatics as an important profession in its own right and the advancement of professionals working in the field. For many informatics bodies, all of this work is done by providing services for their members which enable networking opportunities as well as means of developing professionally. As well as numerous domestic nursing informatics events that have been held around the globe, there have now been no less than eleven international congresses that have dealt with the science, the last being held in Montreal, Canada during June, 2012.

Nursing informatics necessarily deals with the use of technology, nowadays. In nursing, as with a number of other professions, information technology is now rife, but in healthcare is particularly specialised. Technology in nursing, it should be said, is nothing new. Indeed, nurses have for decades become proficient in adapting to working practices that require the use of technology – much of it highly complex or, in some cases experimental. In fact, you could go back as the far as the time of Florence Nightingale to see how this adaptation to technology has been a constant in the profession. Nightingale was not simply a pioneering nurse who developed the ward system that we recognise today, but as far back as 1857 was compiling and processing various data in an effort to make a scientific case for appropriate nursing and medical protocols.

In the history of technology of health care, various forms of equipment and contraptions have been used. Devices such as ventilators and physiological monitors, to give two examples, were first used to provide intensive and critical care. Through the dissemination of information from one healthcare professional to another, so both devices became common place. Indeed, they are now currently used in less acute areas of care and even in the home, albeit in adapted forms.

By the latter half of 1970s the prestigious scholarly nursing periodical, the Journal of Nursing Administration, started to feature a regular column that was related to the field of nursing informatics. However, the term ‘nursing informatics’ did not fall into common usage until it was coined in 1980. Since then, with the development of the personal computer in the workplace and the later advent of the internet, the term has gained more and more pace within the profession and is now used regularly all over the world.

These days nursing is evolving most rapidly by advances in the field information and communication technology, or ICT. As such, ICT has become an essential area for study amongst many professional and particularly so for an information-based vocation, like nursing. Nursing informatics can be applied ICT by a model that focuses on how people process data and information. In the new so-called Information Age, where some claim there is a doubling of knowledge every five years or so, there is a greater degree specialisation than ever before. This is as true within the field of nursing as elsewhere, so for nursing informaticians, it is imperative that all healthcare professional have ready access to the latest scientific information which will help the to deliver the highest quality care. In the future, as the diversity of specialities is expected to continue, nursing informatics will become more important than ever before.

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