The Ultimate Guide to Nursing Informatics Careers


    GUIDE
    February 8, 2021
    Nurse with glasses working on computer at desk

    By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, BA, RN, CBC

    Nursing informatics is a specialty that combines knowledge of nursing, communications, computer science, and information science.

    Nurses who work in this field use their clinical backgrounds as well as their computer and organizational skills. They analyze and develop the health systems that nurses in the clinical setting use.  

    With the ever-changing technological advancements in all facets of healthcare, nursing informatics is an exciting field. This guide will explain the informatics profession and how it directly impacts health outcomes. We will also discuss how nurses can join this growing profession. 

    Part One What is Nursing Informatics?

    Informatics nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work at the intersection of technology and nursing.

    Among other things, an informaticist can:

    • Help software developers build high-quality health systems that process patient data and help nurses achieve high-quality health outcomes
    • Analyze existing health systems to find ways they can be improved
    • Write new computer programs themselves that clinicians in the field can use to help with decision making

    Nursing informaticists typically need at least a BSN degree, but a master’s degree is preferred, and some go on to earn their doctorate.

    The International Medical Informatics Association, a special interest group on nursing informatics, says nursing informaticists integrate the practice of nursing into health systems to “promote the health of people, families, and communities worldwide.”  

    Nursing Informatics Careers

    There are many careers available for nursing informaticists.  Some of the job titles they may hold are:

    1. Informatics Nurse
    2. Clinical Informatics Nurses
    3. Nursing Informatics Specialists
    4. Chief Nursing Officer
    5. Chief Information Officers
    6. Clinical Analyst
    7. Health Informatics Officer

    Why Do We Need Informatics Nurses?

    Nursing Informaticists improve health systems which can improve health outcomes for patients. 

    These nurses work to develop communications and information technologies systems while also serving as educators, specialists, researchers, and software engineers. 

    Now is a great time to become an informatics nurse because of the growing emphasis on controlling health care costs. Nursing informatics can help rein in health care costs at hospitals and other medical facilities. 

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    Part Two What Does an Informatics Nurse Do?

    Though the exact job description of an Informatics Nurse will vary by workplace, the American Medical Informatics Association reported that the core responsibilities of a Nurse Informatics Specialist include the following:

    • Improving interpersonal workflow through communication and information technologies.
    • Using methods of information retrieval and presentation to improve patient safety.
    • Encouraging evidence-based best practices, education, and research efforts.
    • Contributing to the construction of an interoperable national data infrastructure.
    • Advancing public health through influencing health care policy.
    • Managing and creating a vision for communication and information technology development, design, and implementation.

    Other responsibilities may include:

    • Managing the transition from paper charting to electronic medical charting.
    • Developing information systems based on current evidence-based standards of care and ensuring systems remain updated.
    • Working with policymakers and government agencies to ensure laws and regulations support healthcare technology and are compatible with provider and patient technology needs.
    • Educating staff on changes to electronic health records.

    Skills Needed for a Career in Nursing Informatics:

    • Project management
    • Critical thinking & problem-solving
    • Interpersonal skills like empathy and conflict resolution
    • Computer programming
    • Communication
    • Knowledge of health data systems

    Part Three Nursing Informatics Salary

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a Registered Nurse in 2019 is $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary. 

    Reported Informatics Nurse salaries vary widely across different platforms. Glassdoor.com reports an average salary of $65,870 per year for Informatics RNs. Payscale.com reports an average annual salary of $77,912 or $33.70/hr. 

    However, the HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, found that 46% of respondents earn base salaries of more than $100,000 each year.

    Highest Paying States for Informatics Nurses

    Currently, the states that pay the highest salaries for Informatics Nurses according to Payscale.com are as follows:

    1. Portland, Oregon - $83,988
    2. Louisville, Kentucky - $83,636
    3. Baltimore, Maryland - $79,116
    4. Columbia, South Carolina - $78,611

    How to Increase Your Salary as an Informatics Nurse

    Informatics RNs can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience. Based on reported salaries, the following years of service can earn, 

    1. 1-4 years of experience earn an average annual salary of $69,632
    2. 5-9 years of experience earns an average annual salary of $72,463
    3. 10-19 years of experience earns an average annual salary of $79,507
    4. 20+ years of experience earns an average annual salary of $83,134

    As with all jobs in the nursing field, earning potential increases with additional education and experience. In many health systems, nurses get raises during annual employee performance reviews.

    The Nursing Informatics Certification can give nurses an additional bump in their paycheck after completion. In fact, some jobs will require this certification within a specific number of years of starting a position.  

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    Part Four How Do You Become an Informatics Nurse?

    To become an informatics nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

    1. Attend Nursing School

    You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to become a registered nurse. Most informatics nurses will need a bachelor's degree at minimum, but an MSN is preferred.

    So, ADN-prepared nurses will need to complete an additional step of either completing their BSN degree or entering into an accelerated RN to MSN program which will let them earn their BSN and MSN at the same time.

    2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

    Become a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.

    3. Gain Experience at the Bedside

    Bedside experience is essential for informatics nurses because it allows them to understand the equipment and the uses within the organization. 

    4. Earn Your Certification

    Offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the RN-BC certification is ideal for nurses looking for advanced certification.

    5. Advance Your Education 

    While some employers will hire tech-savvy BSN-prepared nurses for informaticist jobs, there is an increasing demand for nurse informaticists to have a master’s degree in health informatics or a related field. And some will advance their education further by earning a doctoral degree.

    For a nurse serious about an informatics career move, a master of science in nursing degree is likely a wise degree to pursue. 

    Informatics nurses with graduate degrees can easily become nurse administrators or nurse educators. Some who focus on information technology become chief information officers or information technology nursing advocates in their respective organizations.

    Regardless of how they advance along a career ladder, informatics nurses are the bridge between the clinical universe and the informational technology sphere.

    Other Tips for Starting a Nursing Informatics Career

    For nurses who love informatics, many strategies can lead to a new career path in relation to technology. Here are some to consider: 

    Become a Super User

    Nurses comfortable with technology can become super-users within their clinical departments or facilities, gain expertise with new systems (such as EMRs and EHRs), and help to train and mentor other nurses who need support.

    Such tech-savvy nurses can also volunteer for their employers' informatics departments, and take part in studies, training, and research that exposes them to expert knowledge and skills. 

    In this way nurses can become more familiar with the tools of this specialty before starting a nursing informatics program.

    Network

    Networking should be a central part of getting to know other healthcare informatics experts. By networking with those who understand this career path, you can keep your finger on the pulse of trends that are crucial to know about.

    Informational interviews, a form of deep networking, can accelerate your process by allowing you to tap the knowledge of people in the know. Informational interviews can reveal recommendations for certifications, master’s degree programs, best practices, and ways to improve your resume and marketability. 

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    Part Five Where Do Informatics Nurses Work?

    Informatics nurses can work in a variety of areas. Typically they will work for healthcare organizations or technology companies. However, as the role of the informatics nurse expands -- so does the available work locations. 

    Some of the places informatics nurses can work include:

    • Hospitals
    • Urgent Care Clinics
    • Counseling centers
    • Technology Company
    • Ambulatory Care Centers
    • Schools and/or universities
    • Government or military settings
    • Healthcare product companies
    • Utilities
    • Consulting firm
    • Electronic Medical Record Company
    • Private contractor
    • International organizations

    Opportunities for jobs in nursing informatics are exploding, thanks to the use of electronic medical records and the general growth of information technology. The Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses reports that as many as 70,000 health informatics specialists will be required within the next few years.

    Part Six What is the Career Outlook for Nursing Informaticists?

    According to the BLS, in 2018, there were more than 3 million registered nurses in the United States. By 2028, there will be a need for additional 371,500 nurses, which is an expected growth of 12%. With the aging population, this number is expected to be even higher.

    A 2014 report by Burning Glass projected that demand for health informatics professionals will grow at twice the rate of the overall workforce, creating more opportunities for professionals who want to work in this facet of health care.

    Since the implementation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) in 2009 and the Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act (PPACA) in 2008, there has been an increased need for technology-based nurses.

    The American Medical Informatics Association estimated an increased need for 70,000 nursing informatics positions due to the ongoing technological advancements and requirements regarding healthcare. 

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    Part Seven What are the Continuing Education Requirements for an Informatics Nurse?

    Just like with any other nurse, an informatics nurse must follow his or her state’s guidelines for RN license renewal.

    In most states this process includes applying for renewal, completing a specific number of continuing education competencies, and paying a fee.

    Check with your state’s Board of Nursing for your specific requirements for renewal.

    You can find a detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours here.

    Part Eight Where Can I Learn More About Informatics Nursing?

    Check out these organizations to learn more about the informatics profession.

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    Part Nine Related Specialties

    Those interested in Nursing Informatics might also have an interest in these related specialties:

    1. Research Nurses

      Research nurses most often work for colleges, universities, private organizations, or corporations. They 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.
    2. Consumer Needs Consultants

      Consumer needs consultants are RNs who help deliver health information to consumers by using the internet and other types of electronic media. Informatics training is important to address health promotion, patient-centered care, disease prevention, and self-care. These nurses also integrate consumer preferences into information systems, assess what is needed in the way of health information, and improve programs such as telemedicine and telemonitoring.
    3. Public Health Nurses

      Public health nurses can use an informatics background to collect and analyze epidemiology information for the public, other healthcare professionals, and policymakers. Public health informatics is an emerging field with many opportunities. Among practical applications are maintaining immunization registries and public health surveillance systems. 

    Part Ten Nursing Informatics and the Future

    Nursing informatics incorporates knowledge of multiple disciplines. It offers the opportunity to have an impact on patients, the public, and healthcare professionals. Candidates who have a mix of nursing, information technology, communication, and organizational skills are in high demand for jobs in this field.

    There’s no doubt informatics is here to stay. Nurses who love computers, information systems, and data management would be smart to plug into this specialty and leverage those skills and experiences for an exciting and well-paying nursing career path.

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    Part Eleven Informatics Nurse FAQs

    • How much do informatics nurses make?

      • Payscale.com reports an average annual salary of $77,912 or $33.70/hr
    • What are Nursing Informatics skills?

      • A nursing informaticist needs to have strong interpersonal skills, the ability to solve problems, and have advanced technology training. They should also have knowledge regarding programming, have strong communication skills and the ability to work with different health data systems and electronic medical records. 
    • What does an informatics nurse do?

      • Though the exact job description of an informatics nurse varies by employer, the American Medical Informatics Association reported that the core responsibilities of a nurse informatics specialist include the following:
        • Improving interpersonal workflow through communication and information technologies.
        • Using methods of information retrieval and presentation to improve patient safety.
        • Encouraging evidence-based best practices, education and research efforts.
        • Contributing to the construction of an interoperable national data infrastructure.
        • Advancing public health through influencing health care policy.
        • Managing and creating a vision for communication and information technology development, design and implementation.
    • Can an informatics nurse work from home?

      • Informatics nurses can work for home but will be required to have specific internet and home office requirements. This ensures that they have the ability to remotely access computer files and attend webinars within a healthcare organization. Ordinarily, employers don’t allow informaticists to work entirely from home, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape, at least for now. Most employers have adjusted by encouraging employees to work from home.

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