I was excited to recently learn that a fellow nurse colleague, Dr. Rosemary Kennedy is assuming a leadership position at the National Quality Forum (NQF). Rosemary will be their first vice president for health information technology (IT). As stated in the press release, “NQF recognizes the potential that health IT can play in improving healthcare, and is committed to an array of initiatives designed to make care safer, more affordable, and better coordinated,” said Janet Corrigan, president and CEO of NQF. “Rosemary’s extensive knowledge of healthcare practice and vast experience in the health IT field, especially in integrating technology into nursing care, will have a significant, positive impact on our work.”
In talking with Rosemary about her most recent accomplishment, I commented that we may have finally reached a tipping point for the specialty of nursing informatics. As noted by Dr. Corrigan and others, there is a better understanding and recognition of the value and importance of our work and its positive impact on today’s healthcare environment. Rosemary’s response was to assert that we are now in the second wave of nursing informatics. This comment caused me to pause and think about what evidence there might be to support that statement. It is noteworthy that the American Nurses Association (ANA) first recognized nursing informatics as a specialty in 1992, so we are close to our 20th anniversary. Three editions of the Scope and Standards of Nursing Informatics Practice have been published, along with a volume of research, articles and books – evidence that our body of knowledge has greatly expanded. Nursing informatics certification has been in place for more than 15 years, and TIGER is no longer just a grass roots effort lead by dedicated volunteers, but is now a formal entity with governance and its first full time staff executive, Senior Director, Sally Schlak. Informatics nurses are increasingly being inducted as fellows in the American Academy of Nursing and recruited into executive positions. And nursing informatics leaders are impacting an array of health IT policy agendas.
Another notable change in the nursing informatics specialty is that we are no longer solely talking to ourselves. Today, we proactively reach out to other leaders in positions of influence, including government agencies, national organizations and committees, to share our knowledge and offer expertise. We have also learned a great deal from those discussions. One key takeaway is that those national leaders and groups respond positively to our numbers. For example, the Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI) and the ANA are now working closely together to articulate a unified voice that more broadly represents our profession of more than 3 million nurses. Judy Murphy’s recent blog describes how both ANI and ANA jointly pledged to coordinate a campaign with other national nursing organizations to promote use of Personal Health Records and Patient Portals. Our own, HIMSS Nursing Informatics Community has grown from 800 members in 2003 to over 3,300 members today. And in September, nurse leaders from 25 organizations participated in a conference, sponsored by ANA, to further develop and refine a blueprint that will facilitate the inclusion of pressure ulcers in quality measures and the implementation of a knowledge base within future EHR documentation to support evidence-based nursing practice.
So yes, informatics nurses are claiming a seat at the policy table, and we’re being sought after for key national appointments and hired for executive positions. Our colleagues from other medical and nursing specialties are seeking our partnership as they acknowledge the importance of informatics to all aspects of care coordination and delivery. If the first wave of nursing informatics involved establishing the specialty and demonstrating its value, the second wave might well represent the time for advancing our vision. Are we getting closer to reaching the ultimate goal of nursing informatics which is to improve the health of populations, communities, families, and individuals by optimizing information management and communication? I think we are definitely making progress, but I welcome your thoughts on whether we are truly in the second wave.