So when I tell people that I am studying nursing informatics they usually give me a strange look followed by questions like “what’s that?” or “why are you studying that?”. Nursing informatics is usually defined as an interdisciplinary field combining nursing science, informatics and computer science. Most people think of nursing of nursing informatics as a new field that came about when computers started to be widely used in clinical settings, however, nursing informatics (minus the computer part) has always been a part of nursing. This is why today, May 12th, the birthday of Florence Nightingale–the first nurse to analyze and document nursing care information and data to improve nursing outcomes, is nursing informatics (NI) day.
One of Florence’s famous quotes, “”Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head (not, how can I always do the right thing myself, but) how can I provide for this right thing always to be done?” is very much at the heart of this field. NI allows us to always do the right thing through data collection for the development of evidence-based practice; through decision support tools; through health information tools that improve our knowledge and understanding of nursing care and allow us to better communicate with patients; and, so on. For nurses, more than any other health profession, informatics is the sine qua non of what we do. After all, who more than us insures that patients have the information they need: whether it’s to carry out their activities-of-daily-living at home post-surgery; what medicines are safe to take when breastfeeding; how to best care of a sick loved one; or how to wear a sexy dress with an insulin pump. We analyze information, we provide it, and we use it to improve care. So happy NI day to all the nurses out there!