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What is Nursing Informatics?

What is Nursing Informatics?

Looking for a career change? Nursing has a lot to offer: competitive salaries, great benefits, the ability to make a real difference in other people’s lives. But figuring out where you belong in the field of nursing can be tough. If you have a penchant for numbers, loved your statistics class in high school, or thrive on detail-oriented technical documentation and information digitalization, nursing informatics might be the perfect fit for you! Keep reading to find out more.

What is Nursing Informatics? 

Nursing informatics is a specialty within the nursing field. Its goal is to assimilate information–statistical data from patient treatments and outcomes, for example–to find ways that facilities can provide better care and more effectively manage the wealth of nursing data and wisdom that’s out there.

What does a nursing informatics specialist do? 

Nursing informatics specialists work for hospitals, clinics, and a wide variety of other medical care institutions. They have a wide variety of roles, including: 

  • Working with digital patient records and information programs 
  • Developing technology to better serve patients and care providers
  • Evaluating data to find ways health care providers can improve patient outcomes 
  • Providing policy change and implementation advice based on the data available 
  • Helping care providers transition toward more effective electronic health records systems 

Why is a nursing informatics specialist so important? 

Every industry needs professionals who can evaluate what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and what can be improved. In nursing, informatics specialists work with the big picture: what are health care providers getting right? What are they missing? What is falling through the cracks?

Nursing informatics specialists are also often the crucial experts who can bridge the gap between care providers and technology developers, ensuring that electronic records are managed effectively and accurately–an absolutely vital part of providing the best possible patient care.

How to Become a Nursing Informatics Specialist

Nursing informatics specialists don’t shy away from precise, detail-oriented work. They enjoy working with technology and strive to optimize digital record-keeping and documentation. Strong communication skills are a must, as you’ll usually work on teams with a wide variety of other professionals to create policy change proposals, solve problems together, and implement changes on a patient-care level.

Nurse Informatics Education Requirements and Training

Nursing informatics specialists start out as registered nurses, so pursuing an RN–preferably a BSN degree–is the best place to start. That means you’ll have to take the NCLEX-RN test and become a registered nurse. Some nursing schools offer BSN degrees with specializations in the nursing informatics field; other masters or doctoral programs in nursing informatics accept working nurses who already hold a BSN.

You don’t necessarily have to have a degree in nursing informatics to pursue a career in the field. Some nurses stack a master’s degree in computer science or information management on top of their four- or five-year BSN.

At this time, there are no specific certification requirements beyond passing the NCLEX to become a nursing informatics specialist. With that said, the vast majority of nursing informatics professionals out there have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing informatics or a related field. If you want to pursue this career, your best bet is to collect the skills and experience necessary to meet the requirements for the position you want.

If you don’t have a degree in nursing informatics, that typically means you’ll need to have patient care experience along with a high level of technological acumen and experience in documentation, data processing and evaluation, and working on leadership teams. 

Nursing Technology Career Outlook

Though nursing informatics is a relatively new field, it’s already well-established and rapidly growing. According to a 2017 survey by HIMSS, the majority of nursing informatics specialists working for vendors reported earning $100,000-$116,000 per year. Of those who worked for hospitals, more than half reported earning either $61,000-$85,000 (30 percent of respondents) or $86,000-$100,000 (29 percent of respondents); those just starting out tend to earn closer to $61,000 per year. Reports also show that salaries–and available positions–have been consistently rising over the past several years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t currently list data specifically for nursing informatics professionals, but computer systems analysts, who work in similar roles outside the medical field, report a median salary of $88,750, with an estimated 54,400 new jobs being added by 2026. Nursing professionals expect the field of nursing informatics to grow even more quickly, as more clinics, hospitals, and specialty centers switch to new digital record-keeping programs and need specialists who understand both the patient-care and the technological challenges that transition represents. 

Working Conditions

Nursing informatics specialists don’t typically deal with patient care, though having patient care experience is usually required to get the job. Instead, they typically work on project management teams in hospitals, clinics, universities, and health technology startups. They typically keep regular hours, unlike most RNs, and interact more with health care administration professionals and technology developers than with patients themselves.

Where are the jobs located? 

Nursing informatics jobs are growing most rapidly in areas with strong health care or research corridors; the east coast and the west coast both have hotbeds of growth, along with some burgeoning health centers in the midwest, like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. But because it’s a growing field, more positions are likely to open up even in unlikely areas and smaller towns in the next few years.

Related Specialties

Though nursing informatics professionals are already in their own niche specialty, there are a few similar jobs that might offer crossover career opportunities:

  • Research Nurses: Nurses who often work for colleges or universities. According to Nurse.org, research nurses “use the scientific methods they learned in nursing education and practice to collect and analyze data. One of their most important roles is evaluating the impact informatics creates when it intervenes in health practices as well as outcomes.” 
  • Consumer Needs Consultants: These RNs work to deliver patients and consumers the information they need to make informed decisions about their health; they often compile data in an easily-digestible way in the form of media releases for the public.
  • Public Health Nurses: These nurses use informatics to inform public health policy and information. They provide recommendations and information to other health care professionals and policymakers to address concerns that affect public health at large. 

Resources

Because nursing informatics is a growing field, there’s not as much information out there as is available for other specialties. Below, we’ve compiled some of the most relevant sources of information to help you if you want to keep reading about the possibilities in nursing informatics or nursing technology. 

Research Informatics FAQ’s 

Q: What are the benefits of working as a nursing informatics specialist? 

A: High earning potential, competitive benefits, and excellent job security and growth opportunities sets nursing informatics specialists a step ahead of many other nursing specialties. 

Q: Where do nursing informatics specialists work? 

A: Nursing informatics specialists work all over the world, with more positions in major healthcare centers. They work for hospitals, technology companies and startups, and other medical and research organizations. 

Q: What type of degree do you need to become a nursing informatics specialist? 

A: You don’t technically need a degree, although you do need to pass the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse. The vast majority of nursing informatics specialists, however, do have a bachelors degree or higher in either nursing with a concentration in nursing informatics or computer sciences.

Q: How long does it take to become a nursing informatics specialist?

A: It depends on the position you’re applying for. Most hiring managers look for registered nurses with some patient care experience and project management experience already under their belts. 

Helpful Organizations, Societies, and Agencies

The American Nursing Informatics Association: A professional association of nurses working in the informatics and technology fields. They also offer workshops for nursing informatics certification. 

The Alliance for Nursing Informatics: Represents a diverse group of nursing informatics organizations, including educational institutions. Offers an Emerging Leaders mentorship program to support nursing informatics specialists as they grow in the field. 

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society: Offers a wealth of information and support for aspiring and current nursing informatics professionals. 

Nursing Informatics Scholarship 

Curious about available programs and scholarships for aspiring nursing informatics specialists? Check out our scholarship here.

Nursing Informatics Programs 

Learn more about the best nursing informatics programs available today. 

Nursing informatics isn’t for everyone, but for nurses (or aspiring nurses) with a love for technology, data assimilation, and continuous process improvement, it’s a niche field that offers remarkable space for growth. If you are looking for a nursing career that focuses more on big-picture healthcare than on one-on-one patient interactions, are a stickler for detail and you love finding out how all the available data supports a course of action, this program might be your perfect long-term career.

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