Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 20 Apr 2024, and is filled under Current Issue, Volume 19 2024, Volume 19 No 1.

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Passing the Torch: Strengthening the Informatics Nursing Workforce Through Mentorship

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By Marcia Bergfeld DNP, MSN, NI-BC

Citation: Bergfeld, M. (2024). Passing the Torch: Strengthening the Informatics Nursing Workforce Through Mentorship. Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, 19(1).

Passing the Torch: Strengthening the Informatics Nursing Workforce Through Mentorship

It is the opinion of this writer that there has never been a greater need for mentorship for not only novice nurses, but nurses across the experiential spectrum. Why now? What is the sense of urgency? The global nursing workforce has dealt with shortages for years with the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying this shortfall, which continues to grow post-pandemic. Consider that in 2021 within the United States alone, it has been reported that 20% of nurses considered leaving direct patient care environments, an increase from 10% prior to that year (Donnelly, 2022). Donnelly further posited that by 2025, a shortage of between 200,000 and 450,000 nurses will be realized if current conditions are not remediated (2022). From a global perspective, the World Health Organization (WHO) in its 2020 State of the World’s Nursing report estimated that by the year 2030, the global demand for nurses will be in the vicinity of 5.6 million to 5.7 million (WHO, 2020, p. 65). A more recent estimate from the International Council of Nurses placed that number at 13 million (Johnstone, 2022, p.1).

Contributing factors to the workforce shortages include ageing of the workforce, understaffing and higher patient acuity yielding heavier workloads, and scarcity of necessary resources. Also contributing to the workforce shortage is the shortage of qualified nursing faculty and decreasing clinical placement opportunities for students (Donnelly, 2022; Johnstone, 2022). Contributing factors that cause this writer pause and set the stage for the focus of this article on mentoring include “stress, mental health anguish, and burnout” (Johnstone, 2022, p. 1). Addressing staff satisfaction as a contributing factor to workplace shortages requires attention to the following themes as important to nurses: “meaning of work, interpersonal relations, a sense of community, role clarity, feedback, and support” (Donley, 2021, p. 586).

It is safe to assume that nurses trained in the specialty of nursing informatics are represented to some degree within the workforce shortage numbers previously mentioned. Compounding any departures from the current nursing informatics workforce, the number of nurses in the pipeline for succession planning may also place a strain on the specialty. Thus, action is needed now to prepare the next generation of nurses in the specialty of informatics. This writer would like to propose mentoring as a solution to support the retention of nurses considering and those currently working within the specialty.

Literature reveals that the terms mentor and preceptor are at times used interchangeably (Perumal & Singh, 2022). Kowalski (2019) depicted a preceptor as one “who guides, tutors, and provides direction toward specific performance goals. Within nursing, the employee preceptor role is defined as assisting and supporting a new or transferred employee through a planned orientation to a specific clinical area” (p. 493). Precepting is a valuable opportunity for helping to bolster the informatics nursing workforce as senior informaticists welcome new employees into their roles, sharing their knowledge and supporting their role development. This writer encourages all readers to embrace this opportunity when presented, to precept informatics students and new nurses joining the specialty.

Mentoring can be a formal or informal process (Perumal & Singh, 2022). Organizations may have formal mentor programs pairing novice and experienced nurses together following a structured developmental plan or perhaps curriculum. Alternately an informal mentor relationship may begin with a novice nurse seeking the support of an experienced nurse within or outside of the organization in which they work. An informal mentor relationship may also develop at the conclusion of a precepted experience. Irrespective of the origin for a mentoring relationship, the importance of this to nursing, and nursing informatics is invaluable. The mentor-mentee pair work together on personal and professional goals and development (Ulrich, 2022) as well as the sharing of “resources and networks” (Kowalski, 2019, p. 493). A mentoring relationship not only has the ability to build the confidence of the mentee and enhance their knowledge and skills, but also provides an opportunity for the mentor to share their passion for nursing informatics.

This writer has had the unique opportunity to have been informally mentored by two pioneers in nursing informatics. The first was Dr. Kathleen Hunter, who began her journey in 1979 as a clinical nurse recognizing the value of data collection and use to enhance nursing care. This set the stage for her formal informatics work which included vast experiences with data, data sets, structured languages, clinical information systems, scope and standards development for informatics practice, and informatics curricula. Because of the work of Dr. Hunter, nursing informatics is recognized today as a nursing specialty (Hunter, 2014).

The second pioneer in nursing informatics that has been influential in this writer’s informatics nursing career is Dr. Toni Hebda. Recently honored as a pioneer in nursing informatics by the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), Dr. Hebda’s interest in nursing informatics began in the 1970’s exploring computer use in nursing practice and education. She was integral to the development of a coalition of nurses with similar interest in informatics which culminated in the writing and publication of The Handbook of Informatics for Nurses & Healthcare Professionals (2024) which is now in its 7th edition. Dr. Hebda has contributed to research which yielded to the development of the TIGER-based Assessment of Nursing Informatics Competencies (TANIC) instrument, and Nursing Informatics Competencies Assessment Level 3 and Level 4 (NICA L3/L4). Dr. Hebda has extensive experience in both the teaching and curriculum development for informatics courses.

Each of these nursing informatics pioneers have made an indelible mark in this writer’s nursing informatics trajectory. Challenged to reach the bar that these two professionals have set, this writer is inspired to build upon their work in teaching, curricular development, and publication. A call to arms is extended to all readers to rise to the opportunity to pass the torch to the next generation of informatics nurses through mentoring.


Donley, J. (2021, December). The impact of work environment on job satisfaction: Pre-COVID research to inform the future.  Nurse Leader, 585-589.

Donnelly, G. F. (2022). Nursing shortage: The perfect storm [Editorial]. Holistic Nursing Practice, 36(6), 333–333.

Hunter, K. (2014). Computer nurse to informatics innovator: Reflections of a pioneer. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics, 18(2).

Hebda, T., Rose, M., Hunter, K. & Czar, P. (2024). Handbook of informatics for nurses & healthcare professionals. (7th ed.). Pearson.–healthcare-professionals/P200000010437/9780138105792

Johnstone, M. J. (2022). Nursing shortages and the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’: The demand for a morally just global response. AJAN – The Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 39(4).

Kowalski, K. (2019). Differentiating mentoring from coaching and precepting. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 50(11), 493-494.

Perumal, R. V. & Singh, M. D. (2022). Mentorship in nursing in Canada – A scoping review. Nurse Education in Practice, 65, 103461–103461.

World Health Organization. (2020). State of the world’s nursing 2020: Investing in education, jobs and leadership.

Ulrich, B. (2022). Mentoring: Needed now in nursing more than ever. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 49(3), 209.

Author Bio

Marcia Bergfeld DNP, MSN, NI-BC | Associate Professor, MSN ST Program M 419.277.5202 |
Chicago, IL
Ron Taylor Award Recipient 2018
Academic LEADS 2018-2019
Daisy Faculty Award Honoree 2022

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