Over the years, the nursing profession has experienced some dramatic changes in the nature and extent of communication and use of information technology. According to Elsayed, El-Nagger, & Mohamed (2016), the potential of information technology and its application in the nursing profession is not debatable as new technology that enhances delivery of quality care continues to emerge. The knowledge required in the field of nursing informatics has expanded to be recognized as a specialty in the nursing profession. Nursing informatics is the integration of nursing science with its information and information management to support the health of people. The specialty plays a critically important role in enhancing effective decision making, as well as the provision of safe, competent, and compassionate care, especially in today’s technical and digital environment. In light of this, we consider the evolution of nursing informatics and compare it with developed Advanced Practice Nurse and explore key differences between the two specialties. Further, we describe the future vision and goals of each specialty and relate them to emerging healthcare trends and needs.
Key Differences in the Evolution of Nursing Informatics and APN Specialties
Ideally, nursing informatics specialty emerged the last two decades to help nurses apply information technology to improve delivery of care. According to Elsayed et al., nursing informatics integrates data to support nurses in the delivery of care and enhance the decision-making process in all the roles of nursing and settings. Going back to the emergence of nursing informatics, in 1994 the American Nurses Association noted that the healthcare environment is rapidly changing and nursing had been caught up in the middle of these dramatic changes. Care providers also expected to deliver safe and competent care in a digital and highly technical setting. Thus, in the 1970s there were discussions that highlighted the potential of integrating information systems in the nursing profession. Gradually, nursing informatics started appearing in literature in the 1980s and a definition integrating nursing, its information, and information management, as well as processing data into knowledge for use in the nursing practice, was introduced. Nurses who worked in nursing informatics were referred to as pioneers who were accepted into the practice because of their competence. The titles, roles, and responsibilities vary. Nonetheless, since then, the meaning of Nursing Informatics has evolved and redefined to the current definition according to the American Nurses Association. Today, nurses who pursue the nursing informatics specialty must be aware of the new developments taking place, new drugs, and new technologies and understand the use and application of information technology in improving the quality and delivery of safe patient care.
Similar to the Nursing Informatics specialty, Advanced Practice nurse specialty has been in existence for over the last two decades. Precisely, the APN specialty was initiated in 1995 in the United States according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (Pulcini, Jelic, & Gul, 2010). The specialty plays a significant role in helping to alleviate the shortage of medical personnel in healthcare. Unfortunately, according to Pulcini et al., compared to nursing informatics whose role is clearly defined and widely accepted, there are still barriers to developing the role of APN. Nonetheless, in 2000, the International Council of Nurses established an International Nurse practitioner-APN network to support advanced practice nurse and enhance networking and developed an internationally recognized definition. According to international standards, an advanced nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with an expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills, and clinical expertise to meet the requirements of their expanded scope of practice.
Future Vision and Goals of Nursing Informatics and APN
The demand for nurses continues to grow as the adoption and application of technology in healthcare intensifies. Consequently, the healthcare industry is facing dramatic changes, with a projected shortage of providers, especially in primary care. Consistently the specialty of nursing and Advanced Practice Nurse will play a critically significant role in addressing these concerns. More specifically, reports indicate that there are not enough physicians to help with the provision of primary care and the shortage is projected to continue. In such a case, APN will be expected to fill the vacuum left by the physicians and help in the delivery of care in the future. Consequently, the proliferation of electronic data has seen the increased use of healthcare information technology in clinical facilities. Thus nurse informatics will be expected to lead, be visible, vocal, and present to provide guidance and enable the transformation of healthcare.
Ideally, nursing informatics and advanced practice nurse are two nursing specialty fields. The two fields have not been in existence since the evolution of the nursing profession. Rather, they evolved in later years and play an important role in the delivery of quality and safe patient care. Notably, although nursing informatics specialty is entering its third decade now, it has tremendously contributed to the healthcare environment. With the proliferation of healthcare information technology, nursing informatics is expected to play a critical role in the advanced of health IT and the provision of care. Along with that, APN specialty has also been in existence in almost the same time as nursing informatics. The current and future roles and goals of APN differ from those of nursing informatics. Nonetheless, the two specialties will play an important role in the emerging healthcare trends and needs.
Elsayed, J. A., El-Nagger, N., Mohamed, H. A. A. (2016). Evolution of Nursing Informatics: A key to Improving Nursing Practice. Research Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, 11(1), 1-7.
Pulcini, J., Jelic, M., Gul, R., & Loke, A. Y. (2010). An International Survey on Advanced Practice Nursing Education, Practice, and Regulation. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 42(1), 31-39.
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