Nursing informatics deserves more attention, says expert

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that it would award more than $71.3 million in grants to expand the country’s nursing workforce through training and education initiatives. However, some believe that the HHS has missed an opportunity to invest in the emerging field of nursing informatics by failing to allocate funding to the training of nurse informatics specialists.

Dr. Bonnie Westra, co-chair of the Alliance of Nursing Informatics (ANI), told Information Week that she believes that HHS has not given nursing informatics the same priority with which it is treating healthcare IT issues in general.

She said that the allocation of funds does not “specifically enforce other policies coming out of HHS, which is the need to educate nurses in advanced informatics positions given the investment that HHS is making in health IT.”

The Advanced Nursing Education Program is comprised of 55 separate awards, totaling $16.1 million, the second most significant funding program of the six awards announced by HHS. The program is intended to provide training nurses with advanced educational resources to become nurse practitioners, educators, midwives and scientists.

According to Information Week, recent data gathered in a survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that 57 percent of nurse informaticists stated that systems implementation was their primary job function, up from 45 percent in 2007. The HIMSS poll indicated that systems development roles accounted for 53 percent of respondents’ roles, an increase of 12 percent from three years ago.

Nursing informatics specialists have the greatest impact on patient safety, workflow and end-user acceptance of health information management systems, and play a key role in the adoption of electronic health records by clinicians, according to the ANI.