Nursing

In the mix: The professor’s perspective: What’s all this buzz about informatics?

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, November 24, 2008

by Richard Freedberg, RN, MSN, MPA

Have you heard the new nursing buzzword?  It's informatics. Just what in the world does that mean? And to be entirely practical, why do we care?

Here's a rough practical definition of informatics from a nursing viewpoint that seems to be commonly shared. Let's agree that this word describes that phenomenon in which nurses use things like computer technology and communication to assist in nursing practice. Remember those dark pre-World Wide Web days? Everyone tried their best to remain current in new nursing information, but it was so hard. The only options were to read new nursing research and practice literature (journals and books), but they were not necessarily on the cutting edge in those days. Today we have enormous amounts of great information available to guide our practice and to help us deliver safe quality care to our patients.

Here are a couple recent examples I've encountered in my own clinical practice:
1.  I got a report from the night nurse one morning at one of the hospitals where I pick up hours (I do like being a nurse!). She told me about an interesting patient with horrible pneumonia that was admitted during the night to our pulmonary step-down unit. After she gave me an update on his clinical condition, she told me he had a rare disorder that included being born without radius bones in his forearms. She didn't know anything else about it, so I researched it online. Here is one site I found for "thrombocytopenia absent radius syndrome" during a basic Google search. Then, I went to a couple of medical databases in the online hospital library and later shared what I found with my peers. This wasn't just a bone deformity; our patient also likely had impaired clotting, which was definitely an important finding in someone with a horribly strong wracking cough! It changed how we assessed and cared for our patient.

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