Strategizing for national nursing data standards

November 2016   Comments

Work is progressing following an April invitational symposium on developing national nursing data standards for clinical practice, administration, education, research and policy in the coming year.

Sponsored by CNA, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and Canada Health Infoway, with financial and planning support from the Canadian Nursing Informatics Association (CNIA) and the Lawrence S. Bloomberg faculty of nursing at the University of Toronto, the symposium’s goal was to develop an action plan for moving forward on the collection and use of nursing data standards in Canada. More than 60 nurse leaders participated, representing most jurisdictions and health-care sectors across Canada, as well as selected national health-care organizations. Cerner, Orion Health, Becton Dickinson, Healthtech Consultants, Gevity, IBM and HInext Inc. also supported and participated in the two-day event.

Symposium participants recommended securing support from key stakeholders like CNA, Infoway and CIHI to create a national taskforce, which could include stakeholders such as the Academy of Canadian Executive Nurses, CNIA and Accreditation Canada. Such a taskforce would develop and evaluate a framework for nursing data standards. Five working groups are focusing on the following action items in each of their key areas.

The clinical practice group identified the need for a how-to guide for nurses on using outcomes data to inform clinical practice at the point of care. The guide would demonstrate the alignment between nursing documentation and clinical outcomes across the continuum of care. The group supported the need to identify opportunities for standards integration, such as C-HOBIC (Canadian Health Outcomes for Better Information and Care), within existing and pending clinical documentation implementations across Canada. C-HOBIC introduces a standardized approach to patient assessments to support nurses in examining the impact of their practice on clinical outcomes.

Another group focused on administration needs. This group also recognized the need for a how-to guide on how to use outcomes data to support administrative decision-making around nurse staffing. It would include core messages on the value of nursing data standards. They identified the need for a nurse executive informatics competency framework that facilitates discussion and informed decision-making with senior executives, stakeholders and vendors.

In addition to continuing work with the Infoway and Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing Digital Health Nursing Faculty Peer Network, the education group identified the need for a how-to guide on nursing data standards in clinical practice education, including teaching scenarios, so the next generation of nurses will be comfortable with national standards when they begin their careers.

Researchers who attended the symposium supported the establishment of a national nursing data standards research consortium to identify priority areas for research to advance the adoption of data standards. Their goal is to secure funding for initial research initiatives.

The policy group acknowledged the need for a targeted policy advocacy strategy to advance evidence-based nursing practice and quality care across the health system through standardized nursing data. They also supported a resolution advocating for the adoption of nursing data standards. Subsequently, CNIA submitted the resolution to CNA for discussion at the November board meeting.

Organizers of the symposium are planning a followup event in April 2017 to continue the discussion and engage nurses across Canada to advance the adoption of nursing data standards. For more information about this initiative and ongoing progress, visit

Peggy White, RN, MN

Peggy White, RN, MN, is project director for C HOBIC and president of the Canadian Nursing Informatics Association.

Lynn Nagle, RN, PhD

Lynn Nagle, RN, PhD, is assistant professor, Lawrence S. Bloomberg faculty of nursing, University of Toronto.

Kathryn Hannah, CM, RN, PhD

Kathryn Hannah, CM, RN, PhD, is national executive lead for C HOBIC and health informatics advisor to the Canadian Nurses Association.

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