Informatics can be
loosely defined as the creation and use of systems that perform the following
tasks:

1. Collect information
2. Analyze the information to gather useful insights
3. Distribute the information and insights

            Thus, nursing informatics is
the use of such systems in the context of nursing, and the most common example
of this is modern medication administration. The Pyxis and EHR systems used
today allow an individual nurse to dispense hundreds of doses of medication in
a single shift, and have safeguards to prevent errors that could be harmful or
even lethal to patients.

An example of this system:

1. A nurse takes a blood pressure reading and enters that number into the EHR
(collecting information).

2. A different nurse enters a blood pressure medication in the MAR (collecting
a second piece of information).

3. The EHR analyzes this information and realizes that the medication is
contraindicated due to the patient’s last BP reading (gathering a useful
insight).

 

4. A warning box pops us advising the second
nurse to hold the medication (distributing the useful insight).

            This type of system wasn’t
necessary or technically feasible a few decades ago, but due to the rapid
advancement of medicine and medical technology it is now an essential part of
our healthcare system. Recognizing the importance of this type of system, the
need for nurses to understand and use such systems is clear. We can’t safely do
our jobs without them.

            As we all know, we’re not the
only medical professionals who rely on informatics in our daily roles. When we
refer to evidence-based practice, we’re really referring to informatics. Every
study or trial done in the last few decades uses informatics to collect and
analyze information and gather insights. If the insights are especially useful
or important, they may be distributed to the medical community as new
guidelines, protocols, or drugs.

            At the end of the day modern
medicine is really just a global informatics machine, gathering and analyzing
unfathomable amounts of information and spitting out insights faster than we
mere mortals can comprehend, and it’s only by recognizing this and looking at
the big picture can we see this machine and our roles inside it. Hopefully this
can help us get through the hours of daily charting that lay ahead of us,
knowing this most tedious of tasks is the bedrock upon which modern medicine
rests.