The age of new technologies like artificial intelligence is opening new vistas for nurses just choosing their career paths and experienced nurses looking to expand their skills. Over more than 30 years as a registered nurse, I have seen our profession broaden dramatically beyond the traditional bedside role into a wide variety of specialties such as anesthesia, obstetrics, home health, and the growing field of public health informatics and technology.

I have seen a transformation in the field before. When I wrote the “Medication Adherence Algorithm,” I helped engage nurses in medication adherence. Today, professionals across the country use this algorithm to facilitate medication adherence with patients and clients in clinical practice.

In a new age where technology and artificial intelligence seem to permeate every area of our lives, these advances are permeating the field of nursing, too. We rely on data for our jobs now more than ever, so we need to ensure we know how to use it.

For nurses who love caring for people and are interested in data and numbers, there’s a new career path that may have been overlooked, but it’s growing rapidly in importance to healthcare and as a professional path for nurses.

Public health informatics combines public health and data science to improve people’s lives. Nurses in this growing field can connect people, technology, and information to inform decision-making that improves health outcomes across communities.

Public health informatics allows you to analyze trends and utilize the latest technology to make a difference in your community. By pursuing education in this field, you can be at the forefront of the latest digital tools and trends while also helping to improve the lives of others. A report published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing stated that informatics and technology are essential components of nursing education for the 21st century.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the related field of health information technologists and medical registrars has a job-growth outlook of 16% by 2032, which is much faster than average. Various employers, from health IT start-ups to hospitals to public health departments and community health centers, need specialists trained in public health informatics.

Universities nationwide provide nurses opportunities to join the movement to advance public health. Opportunities are available in local communities as universities strive to train a workforce to serve communities that need to ensure local citizens are represented and thus served by data that defines healthcare in this age of artificial intelligence.

Bowie State University in Maryland, where I work, is one example of an outstanding and innovative program in Public Health Informatics and Technology, known as PHIT. The program offers a 120 credit Undergraduate Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health Informatics and Technology (PHIT) and an 18-credit Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Public Health Informatics Systems (PHIS) and is well suited to nurses looking to build their skillset at any stage of their career.

The PHIT Workforce Development Programs at the University of Minnesota, the University of the District of Columbia, and Jackson State University are also integrated into their nursing departments.

This program at Bowie State and across other colleges and universities around the country are funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Check for a program near you if you’re interested in new career options or expanding your data skills.

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