When many nurses reflect on ethical dilemmas, the topics of dying patients or the equitable distribution of medical services immediately come to mind, but there are many other issues nurses face that are just as important and complex.
One such problem is the lack of nursing informatics skills and technology competencies.
Despite using technology daily, many nurses do not have the skills needed to practice effectively, safely and competently within the nursing profession in the 21st century.
In addition to possessing good clinical skills, competent nurses must have excellent technology skills, or at the bare minimum should possess basic computer skills, which will allow the nurse to work efficiently and safely within nursing.
Examples of these basic technology skills are:
- the ability to protect patient privacy within a paperless environment;
- the capability to document properly within an electronic health record (EHR);
- the aptitude to use software applications, and
- the ability to use bar code technology to administer medications.1
Establishing nursing informatics competency standards is necessary so that nursing administrators and educators understand and recognize what skills are needed for different nursing positions.
Currently, little research is available regarding what basic computer science and informatics technology competencies are needed within nursing.
While dated, Staggers, Gassert, and Curran (2001) determined informatics competencies for nurses functioning at four different levels of practice. Their study found entry-level nurses must have informatics skills in areas that include e-mail, telecommunications, the Internet, basic keyboarding, word processing and documentation within an EHR.
As nurses progress throughout their careers, informatics competencies should increase and include the ability to use and manage databases for administrative, education and research purposes. Nurses able to manage projects with software applications, develop and modify spreadsheets, teach others to use computers, and discover innovative uses for computer applications as it relates to nursing, may be considered an informatics specialist.2
Hospital and nursing administrators need to understand what levels of informatics competencies are needed within the different roles in nursing, as this can help facilitate the recruiting and promotion of nursing professionals. Informatics competency standards can help ensure the right person is selected for a position and improve patient safety and nursing job satisfaction and retention.
Integration into Education
One way to increase nursing informatics competency within the nursing profession could begin by employing such courses within nursing school curricula.
Ornes and Gassert (2007) noted that entry-level nurses who are competent with technology while in a nursing program are likely better prepared to function as a novice nurse upon graduation.
Nursing schools must evaluate the curricula and begin the integrating nursing informatics education. In addition, nursing schools should evaluate the informatics competency of nursing instructors to ensure they understand the technology and can teach the subject effectively.1
Axley (2008) furthered this idea, stating educators who did not grow up with technology often face the same challenges as students. Teaching and understanding nursing informatics and technology can be difficult to achieve if the person providing the education lacks the needed skills as well.
Additionally, Axley noted that the digital age is growing rapidly and that it is critical for faculty to understand informatics technology competency is critical. Nursing informatics competency also must be a focus for education administrators as increasing the technological competency of the nurse educator can increase faculty retention and enhance student learning.4
Lindemann (as cited in Glasgow & Cornelius 2005) stated that nursing faculty must be efficient and competent with technology so the nursing student is prepared to function in a technology driven healthcare environment upon graduation.