In 1985, IMIA Nursing Working Group 8 sponsored its second international conference, “Nursing Uses of Computers and Information Science” in Calgary. This major international event provided the catalyst for the organization of a nursing interest group within the organization that is now COACH, Canada’s Health Informatics Association. Following that successful conference, the COACH President at the time, Dr. Kathryn J. Hannah, C.M., prevailed on the COACH BOARD to host a breakfast meeting for nurses at the annual COACH Conference in 1987. The COACH Nursing SIG emerged from that breakfast meeting. Across Canada, provincial nursing informatics interest groups emerged during the 1990s in various jurisdictions across the country; some have continued to grow and expand while others languished. In 1999, the COACH Board disbanded the Nursing SIG.

With the dissolution of the COACH NI-SIG, a group of nurses committed to the importance of informatics for all nurses began to formalize a new national nursing informatics organization. In 2002, the Canadian Nursing Informatics Association (CNIA) was established under the leadership of Dr. Lynn Nagle with the goal of engaging nurses in all sectors and in all roles. In 2004, the scope and growth of the CNIA’s national membership and compliance with the Canadian Nursing Association (CNA) criteria, afforded the CNIA “Associate Group” status within CNA. This status brought further acknowledgement and recognition to CNIA, as they collaborated with CNA to review and influence relevant national nursing policy and strategic planning related to informatics. As CNIA matured, it was formally incorporated in July, 2005.

CNIA also established a renewed association and formal alliance with Canada’s Health Informatics Organization, COACH, which has facilitated the appointment of the Canadian nurse nominee to the International Medical Informatics Association—Nursing Informatics Working Group (IMIA-NI WG) that later became the IMIA Nursing Informatics Special Interest Group (IMIA-NI). IMIA-NI provides an opportunity to engage with international nursing informatics colleagues and share knowledge beyond national borders. Opportunities to further leverage respective expertise and experiences are under discussion with colleagues in the United States, Europe, South America, and Australia. CNIA also maintains close relationships with several international colleagues who are trying to generate communities of interest in their own countries or to launch NI groups. Several international director roles have been established on the CNIA Board to enable mentoring and to share lessons learned from the Canadian experience.

The need to harness existing nursing informatics expertise, address the required informatics competencies of all nurses, and extend the profession’s understanding of the significance of health informatics are key priorities for CNIA. The overall goals of CNIA include the following:

  • To strategically seek out partnerships and networking opportunities to provide leadership and expertise for Nursing Informatics in Canada
  • To foster innovation by expanding and disseminating knowledge about nursing and health informatics for nurses and the healthcare community
  • To engage in national and international nursing and health informatics initiatives
  • To create awareness about the value of standardized data in health care to facilitate knowledge driven care and health system use

These goals are being operationalized through a number of initiatives including:

  • Biannual national conferences,
  • A web site
  • Regular Member News Blasts
  • Collaboration with the CNA on the development of a Joint Position Statement on Nursing Informatics
  • Collaboration with CNA and Canada Health Infoway on the National Nursing Data Standards Symposia
  • Collaboration with CNA and Canada Health Infoway on the 2017 National Survey of Canadian Nurses: Use of Digital Health Technology in Practice

Nursing informatics in Canada is thriving and growing under the leadership of CNIA.