2011 Survey Shows Big Gains for Informatics Nurses

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Results announced at HIMSS 2011 conference

When it comes to improving quality of care and process efficiency, it has long been recognized that nurse informaticists are key players in healthcare IT implementation.

With the growing adoption of healthcare IT, nursing informatics has developed into a hybrid career combining nursing and IT skills. The importance and impact of this new healthcare career are reflected in the Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey conducted every three years by the Health Information Management Systems Society (HiMSS). This year's results were announced by Joyce Sensmeier, vice president of informatics for HiMSS, on Friday, Feb. 19, just ahead of the HiMSS 11 conference opening.

"It is wonderful to see the respondents' thoughts and insights to what's happening in nursing informatics and to see the field is growing and to see that the value of what informatics nurses do is being realized and appreciated," Sensmeier said.

A total of 660 nursing informatics participants took this year's survey, with 48 percent working in acute care setting of hospitals and healthcare institutions and 20 percent working in corporate offices. The remaining respondents said they worked ambulatory care facilities, home health agencies, managed care companies and government or military facilities.

Sensmeier said that career duration for nursing informatics is up, with more than 39 percent of respondents reporting that they had been in the field from more than 10 years, and their education level has risen too with 56 percent having completed masters' level education and beyond.

HiMSS 2011 callout

The top applications being implemented, were no surprise, as electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) were most frequently cited by respondents in the survey. In terms of barriers to successfully doing their jobs, nearly one-third of respondents named integration and interoperability, which Sensmeir said was a positive sign of progress.

"In previous surveys in 2004 and 2007 it (the top obstacle) was financial resources," Sensmeir said. "So it is interesting to see that possibly there are more financial resources now to support their work but that integration and interoperability is a key problem. Nurses innately understand what happens when you don't have access to the data where you need it and that can cause problems for patient safety and in obtaining optimal outcomes."

The average salary of $98,703 for nurse informaticists also rose dramatically showing a 42 percent jump over the 2004 results and 17 percent increase over the 2007 survey. Informatics nurses also saw significant gains in job responsibility with 57 percent reporting primary responsibility for implementation, compared to 45 percent in 2007. Systems development was a close second with 53 percent charged with development, up from 41 percent in 2007.

"The increase in salary demonstrates the industry's recognition of the importance of nursing informatics as a growing and valued profession," Sensmeier said. "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. They're increasingly having a significant impact and are becoming leaders in advancing the best use of healthcare IT."

By: Michael O'Leary, contributing editor Health Imaging Hub

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