Report from IMIA NI General Assembly

The International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) Nursing Informatics General Assembly was held in conjunction with NI2009 held in Helsinki, Finland. Paula M Procter, Secretary, BCS Health (Nursing) Specialist Group and a reader at Sheffield Hallam University, provides her own personal perspective on the event.

This was the last Nursing Informatics General Assembly to be chaired by Robyn Carr from New Zealand. The new chair Heimar Marin from Brazil was welcomed. Robyn has been a transformational chair, in that she has facilitated the development of the special interest group through the skills and abilities of those around her. This has allowed individuals to take on tasks on behalf on the group and report to the assembly.

The assembly was very well-attended; indeed the room selected proved to be too small for all to be actively involved and this was a problem. There were honorary members who are the doyennes of nursing informatics: committee members, country representatives, observers who hope to become members and general observers. 

Discussions were held under a tiered framework, in that there were those with inside information at the one extreme and those with no or outdated information at the other extreme resulting in little useful exchange. Given that nursing informatics is at a tipping point in terms of advancement, it seemed to me that there was little ability for rapid forward impetus if all views needed to be addressed. 

Problems with pre-meetings

As the meeting progressed through the agenda, it became clear that there had been a pre-meeting of the officers of the specialist group. Others may have been involved but I cannot confirm that. I have no problem with pre-meetings as long as they are transparent and are not used to offer ready-made solutions to issues expected to arise. It will be interesting to see how the new chair and officers work in the future. The new officers are listed on the IMIA NI website.

We did update the definition of nursing informatics, which is now:

Nursing informatics science and practice integrates nursing (its information and knowledge and their management) with information and communication technologies to promote the health of people, families and communities world wide.

IMIA-NI definition, adopted July 2009, Helsinki, Finland

We did not find agreement with regard to a task group I led looking at the possible implications of the IMIA proposal to increase the frequency of the MedInfo conference from every three years to every two years. This is to be raised again at the next General Assembly during MedInfo 2010. The current suggestion is along the lines of a large NI Congress every four years with an 'NI-Lite' in between, where the special interest group works with a particular country to raise its nursing informatics profile through collaborative workshops and seminars.

Organisers update

We received an update report from the NI2012 organisers and all appears to be progressing satisfactorily. 

The Nursing Informatics conference is currently held every three years and is a tough task for any organising country to undertake. I think Finland had even greater difficulties than normal with the credit crisis just beginning to have an impact. Others have commented on various aspects of the conference (HINow, September 2009). I would like to concentrate on my impression of acquiescence displayed at the conference. 

It is widely acknowledged that nursing has not been at the forefront of most nations' minds when developing new ways of working with information and communications technology. Indeed at the 2000 congress dire warnings were given of what might happen to nursing if we stayed silent, now that there is an international shortage of nurses and a growing concern that the increased education of nurses has not had the impact originally intended. 

Room and board

There is a need to move nursing outside ‘room and board’ in terms of costing and for nursing to stand amongst equals, accepting its core role as the 'glue' across the myriad of services patients and their relatives and friends now procure in today's services for health and social care. 

My overall feeling of the papers, posters and general conversations with colleagues was that there was a certain 'treading of water' going on. We had reached an impasse and although the technology was getting smaller and the tools getting smarter nursing wasn't moving forward in the world of supportive informatics.

In the midst of one very low point at the conference, I decided to reconsider my now very clouded view from a different perspective and came away with a much more positive attitude.  There were individual speakers who were demonstrating good practice in clinical nursing, education and research.

Maybe the point in 2009 wasn't so much about finding a nursing role, but more about accepting the role we have and weaving the tools of today in and out of the role; tools that we need to carry out the role for the best treatment for our patients, their relatives and friends. Maybe we had arrived and informatics was no longer a goal, but a living and breathing dimension of nursing nearly ten years into the 21st Century?

The importance of conferences such as the Nursing Informatics Congress was certainly validated in my eyes at NI2009. It challenged my thinking and although a little disappointing it has helped me re-charge my belief in nursing informatics and availed me of additional information to use in my teaching and research. I thank the BCS for assisting in the funding of my attendance, as do my students.

IMIA NI website

Spring 2010