Table of Contents
- What is nursing informatics?
- The Role of a Nursing Informatics Specialist
- Nursing Informatics Jobs
- How to Become a Nurse in Informatics
- Nursing Informatics: Salary
- Nursing Informatics: Job Outlook
- Exploring Nursing Career Options
Improving patient outcomes and preventing patient harm are two key goals of nurse leaders and nursing professionals. One of the most important tools in achieving both goals are data analytics techniques used by nurses and nurse managers working in all areas of healthcare.
Maintaining high-quality data necessary for analysis also is important in meeting federal requirements. For example:
- The meaningful use requirements for certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate that healthcare providers demonstrate continuous quality improvement at the point of care, and ensure interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs) and other health information.
- The CMS Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program relies on advanced statistical reporting by healthcare providers to maximize reimbursements by documenting the quality of care they provide.
Nursing informatics professionals tie together the work of stakeholders across healthcare domains, providing these diverse fields with the data-driven insights they need to improve outcomes, reduce costs, increase safety, and promote high-quality services. The variety of nursing informatics jobs mirrors the diversity of the applications for data analytics in the healthcare field.
Regarding salary and career outlook, the range of positions available to nursing informatics professionals offers myriad opportunities for expanding into new areas of healthcare and achieving the highest levels of leadership in the nursing profession. This “technology of caring” opens new vistas for nurses seeking a career that will positively affect their patients, coworkers, organizations, and the nursing profession.
Nursing informatics is the practice of using technology to integrate data with nurses’ professional knowledge and other information to improve patient outcomes and facilitate communication within healthcare organizations. What nursing informatics is, from the perspective of patients and caregivers, emphasizes the field’s potential to improve the quality of patient care while lowering healthcare costs.
The journal Nursing Management reports nursing informatics is a process through which healthcare providers transform data into wisdom. The basic framework of nursing informatics incorporates the following elements.
- Data: Uninterpreted items, or data elements, whose significance depends on their relationship with other data elements
- Information: A combination of data elements that are organized and processed in a way that allows their significance to be interpreted
- Knowledge: The formalized relationships between data and information to provide an understanding of how certain information applies to different situations
- Wisdom: What results when data, information, and knowledge are applied to support healthcare decisions that serve the needs of individual patients and their families, as well as communities
Nursing Informatics as a Healthcare Specialty
Nursing informatics enhances the work of nurses and other healthcare providers by gathering, analyzing, and reporting on health data that improves patient care, makes healthcare processes more efficient, and tracks the quality of patient outcomes. In any discussion of nursing informatics, it is important to note that:
- Healthcare organizations apply informatics to identify patients who are most likely to be at risk while receiving care much earlier in their hospital stay.
- The outcome-based education model serves as a framework for assessing nurse competence by validating the learner’s knowledge and performance rather than relying on credit and continuing education hours. This is particularly key in the area of nursing informatics, because as technology advances, nurses have more opportunity in their work experiences to interact with data and transform it into wisdom.
- A lack of informatics competencies in chief nurse executives (CNEs) impedes the ability of healthcare providers to realize the benefits of EHRs. It also prevents CNEs from transforming nurses into modern, knowledge workers who can apply data to improve patient outcomes.
Nurses who are interested in pursuing jobs in nursing informatics can consider earning a certification in the field. The informatics nursing specialty certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is available to registered nurses (RNs) who hold a current state license or an equivalent credential in another country. Applicants need to have:
- Earned a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or a related field
- The equivalent of at least two years of practice as a full-time RN
- Completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics nursing in the past three years
In addition, candidates for nursing informatics certification need to have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of practice in nursing informatics in the past three years, or a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice in the past three years, plus 12 semester hours of credit in informatics coursework as part of a graduate-level nursing program. Alternatively, candidates may qualify for certification if they hold a graduate-level degree in informatics nursing that includes at least 200 hours of faculty supervised practicum in informatics nursing.
As with many new technologies, nursing informatics can best be explained by describing the role of a nursing informatics specialist, one of the leading career paths for nurses who are interested in informatics. Much of the work that nursing informatics specialists do involves translating analysis of healthcare data into insight and intelligence that guide treatment and patient care decisions.
Individuals who are interested in how to become a nursing informatics specialist should be aware the position requires knowledge and experience in advanced data analytics tools, as well as a thorough background in nursing practices and policies.
Nursing informatics specialists use technology to gather data and analytics to find efficient ways to improve healthcare delivery. They typically oversee systems implementation and maintenance, often acting as liaisons between a healthcare facility’s clinical and information technology (IT) units. Additionally, one of their tasks may be training employees in new technologies.
Although they are working in nursing informatics positions, nursing informatics specialists still function as RNs and perform duties consistent with traditional nursing roles, such as patient assessment and treatment. A nursing background is helpful when analyzing system data to determine how effectively technology is improving patient care.
Because the role of nursing informatics specialist involves overseeing and training others, these professionals take on tasks that have managerial or leadership elements. Some of these tasks may include project management and creating and tracking quality-based initiatives.
Nursing informatics specialists seek to use healthcare technology to improve care delivery. These improvements have the potential to influence healthcare policy and public health initiatives.
Duties and Responsibilities of Nursing Informatics Specialists
Nursing informatics specialists focus on applying healthcare data to improve patient outcomes and make healthcare services more effective. Achieving these goals entails a range of individual nursing tasks. For example, nursing informatics specialists:
- Enhance nurse services by analyzing and interpreting the needs of patients, nurses, and health information processes
- Create and deploy policies and practices that keep patient records and other healthcare information secure and confidential
- Communicate nursing practice information to systems engineers, designers, and analysts
- Assist in implementing healthcare information systems that support nurse administration, practice, education, and research
- Train nurses in the use of computer systems and consult with them on an ongoing basis
- Develop and maintain healthcare applications and systems used in clinical and administrative settings
- Keep abreast of developments in healthcare and technology.
Nursing Informatics Specialties
The field of nursing informatics encompasses several specialty areas that address the needs of various healthcare operations. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) provides certification and/or working groups in five nursing informatics specialties outlined below.
As the examples below demonstrate, nurses who are interested in informatics can choose from a wide array of nursing informatics jobs in various specialties that take nursing beyond the bedside.
As medical technology advances, the amount of biomedical and genomic data increases at a tremendous rate. Translational bioinformatics develops systems to store, analyze, and interpret this data to improve the prediction, treatment, and prevention of diseases. The goal is to integrate biological and clinical data to disseminate useful information to clinicians, researchers, and patients.
Clinical Research Informatics
The goal of clinical research informatics is to discover new approaches to healthcare by applying knowledge gained through clinical trials and secondary research based on clinical data. Along with translational bioinformatics, this area of informatics focuses on applying medical research results in clinical settings.
Clinical informatics is also referred to as operational informatics and applied clinical informatics. It involves using informatics to improve healthcare services delivered by nurses, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. The areas that clinical informatics address include medical decision support, analysis of visual images, clinical documentation, and provider order entry systems.
Consumer Health Informatics
Consumer health informatics applies nursing informatics to help patients and consumers directly through health literacy and patient education. This specialty develops frameworks for disseminating health information to consumers in an easy-to-understand format that relates to a patient’s personal health records.
Public Health Informatics
Among the areas of focus for public health informatics are health surveillance, emergency preparedness, disease prevention, and health promotion. The field integrates health informatics and population informatics to devise information systems that promote healthy living among groups and communities. In addition to health data, public health informatics involves studying characteristics in the environment, the quality of work and living spaces, and electronic laboratory reporting.
Careers in nursing informatics extend to all areas of healthcare, from clinical and scientific research to management, administration, and other leadership roles. Professionals who work in nursing informatics jobs serve as the bridge between the growing reliance on technology in healthcare and the needs of clinical practitioners and other healthcare workers who lack IT skills.
Nursing Informatics Careers: Applying Data to Improve Health Outcomes
In the 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), 77% of nurse informaticists reported being highly satisfied with their choice of informatics career. In addition:
- The most common responsibilities that nurse informaticists had were systems implementation (44%) and utilization/optimization (41%).
- The growth in nursing informatics job opportunities was evident by the increase in the number of nurse informaticists with less than a year of experience (14% in 2020, compared with 8% in the 2017 survey).
- The position of chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO) or senior nursing informatics officer (SNIO) is becoming more prevalent: 41% of respondents said their organizations had such a position.
The following are among the job titles that are available in nurse informatics.
The goal of clinical analysts is to improve their organizations’ clinical practices by optimizing clinical information systems and making clinical workflows more efficient. They study organizational and IT issues, contribute to creating and implementing solutions to address ineffective operations, and confirm that their organizations comply with all applicable regulations.
The position serves as a liaison between medical staff and other departments, including IT. Clinical analysts need to be familiar with hospital portals and systems, which typically requires a background in databases and data analytics, and they need strong organizational skills.
Informatics Nurse Specialist
As discussed above, informatics nurse specialists combine their knowledge of nursing and IT to link the work of nurses and other healthcare workers with that of systems designers, systems engineers, and other computer professionals. They participate in the design, implementation, and maintenance of healthcare information systems and assist in educating nursing staff in using technology to solve clinical problems.
Director of Clinical Informatics
A key responsibility of a director of clinical informatics is to manage the design and implementation of a healthcare organization’s electronic medical records system. In addition to overseeing the training of staff in how to use those systems, individuals in this type of nursing informatics job work closely with medical professionals, healthcare administrators, and IT systems designers to ensure systems meet the needs of all stakeholders. A strong background in medicine, business, and technology is required.
Clinical Informatics Manager
Clinical informatics managers develop and coordinate informatics programs at hospitals and in other clinical settings. They ensure nurses and other healthcare professionals have ready access to the insights gleaned from analyzing EHRs and other clinical data.
In addition to working directly with nursing staff, clinical informatics managers interact with data quality, drug safety, and other departments to implement standards for quality, safety, and accuracy. They conduct internal reviews of health information systems to identify problems and improve operational efficiency.
Resources on Nursing Informatics Jobs
- Health Information and Management Systems Society, “Exploring Nursing Career Opportunities in the Field of Informatics” — This article contains profiles of several nursing informatics professionals, examining their career paths, duties and responsibilities, and professional goals.
- Informatics Association, Working Group Webinar Library — This page contains webinars on a variety of topics related to nursing informatics.
The first step on the informatics career path is learning how to become a nurse in informatics. Nurses who work in informatics possess a broad skill set that exhibits a deep level of competency in healthcare and technological roles. Because they’re RNs, they need to have strong critical thinking skills, be detail oriented, be able to communicate effectively, and exhibit compassion and emotional stability.
Nurses who specialize in informatics must display extensive knowledge of technology and tech-derived information. They must be proficient in a broad range of IT systems, have sharp data analysis skills, and be competent in project management.
While developing technological proficiency is key to success in nursing informatics, it’s important to note that the role is still fundamentally a nursing position. The path to become a nurse in informatics starts with building a firm foundation in the nursing skills that produce excellent patient care. An RN to BSN online program can help develop and sharpen key nursing skills and highlight the healthcare benefits of medical technology.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The minimum educational requirement to work in a nursing informatics job is a bachelor’s degree. If you’re already an RN, a reputable RN to BSN online program can help you cultivate the nursing competencies to thrive in the role. You may also want to enroll in a few IT courses to develop your tech skills.
For many nurses, earning a bachelor’s degree is just the starting point. Employers often require qualified candidates to possess an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate. It’s advantageous to pursue such a degree. In the HIMSS 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, 62% of polled nurses working in informatics had a master’s degree in nursing informatics, nursing, or another field.
Step 2: Meet License and Certification Requirements
Licensure and certification as an RN are required for many nursing jobs in informatics. Licensing requirements vary, but all states require candidates to complete an approved nursing degree program and to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). You can visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website for a more detailed list of requirements.
Specific certifications in informatics aren’t mandatory for nursing informatics careers. However, as the nursing informatics field expands, more employers are requiring certification as a prerequisite for employment.
You can become certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the HIMSS. The ANCC offers the Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC) certification, which many credentialed employees hold. You have your choice of three certification programs from HIMSS: Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS) is designed for entry-level certification, Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) is an advanced-level certification, and Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems-Canada (CPHIMS-CA) is an advanced-level certification with an additional component specifically related to healthcare in Canada.
Step 3: Complete On-the-Job Training
While nursing informatics positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to receive on-the-job training in the field while working as an RN. This type of training can enable nurses who aspire to nursing informatics jobs to further sharpen key nursing skills and competencies in a controlled, real-world environment. On-the-job training may take place in a supervised clinical setting as part of an undergraduate program.
Step 4: Gain Experience
Finally, to work in nursing informatics, you must gain work experience. Because the position requires advanced competence in nursing and technology, having experience in the field can further demonstrate your ability, which could set you apart from the competition in the eyes of an employer.
The nursing informatics salary potential is bright. As of May 2021, the median annual salary for medical and health services managers, including health information managers, was $101,340, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey reported that 11% of surveyed nurses working in informatics earned annual salaries exceeding $150,000, while more than 60% of respondents earned between $61,000 and $115,000.
The compensation website PayScale estimates the following median annual salaries of five different jobs related to nursing informatics as of July 2022:
Nursing Informatics Salary by City
The following were among the U.S. cities where informatics nurses earned salaries higher than the national average as of July 2022, according to PayScale:
- Dallas: 51.4% more than the national average
- Portland, Ore.: 5.9% more
- Louisville, Ky.: 5.5% more
As of July 2022, cities where informatics nurses had salaries lower than the national average included:
- Pittsburgh: 10.1% lower than the national average
- Philadelphia: 8.8% lower
- Columbia, S.C.: 0.8% lower
Salaries for clinical informatics managers as of July 2022 were higher than the national average in these cities:
- Boston: 31.6% higher than the national average
- New York City: 8.9% higher
- Jacksonville, Fla.: 2.1% higher
The following cities reported clinical informatics manager salaries that were lower than the national average as of July 2022:
- New Orleans: 9.0% lower than the national average
- Cleveland: 8.8% lower
- Philadelphia: 1.8% lower
Nursing Informatics Salary: By Industry
While the majority of nursing informatics professionals work in the healthcare industry, the interdisciplinary nature of the profession creates nursing informatics job opportunities in diverse technical and research fields, such as:
- Computer science
- Decision science
- Information science
- Management science
- Cognitive science
- Organizational theory
The profession’s close connection between nursing and IT qualifies candidates for positions with technology firms that provide products and services to healthcare organizations, including insurance, medical equipment manufacturers, computer services, education, and government agencies. The BLS in 2020 estimated the following industries were the largest employers of medical and health managers, which includes nursing informatics professionals.
- State, local, and private hospitals: 33%
- Physicians’ offices: 12%
- Nursing and residential care facilities: 10%
- Government agencies: 9%
- Outpatient care facilities: 7%
As of May 2021, the following were the median annual salaries for medical and health managers in these industries, according to the BLS.
- State, local, and private hospitals: $119,450
- Government agencies: $117,000
- Outpatient care centers: $99,540
- Physicians’ offices: $98,230
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $83,550
The nursing informatics job outlook is promising. The healthcare industry’s increasing reliance on data analytics creates opportunities in nearly every area of nursing. The future for nursing informatics jobs also is driven by the need for healthcare professionals with technical and patient care experience.
The BLS notes the healthcare industry’s growing reliance on EHRs has spurred demand for nursing managers with experience and skills related to health IT and informatics. In addition:
- The number of jobs for medical and health services managers is forecast to increase by 32% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the projected employment growth for all occupations, according to the BLS.
- The job search site Indeed notes the skills and experience that nursing informatics professionals possess qualify them for positions with medical equipment manufacturers and other industries outside typical healthcare and medical research settings.
Nursing Informatics Opportunities, Advancement, and Professional Development
The journal Nursing Leadership explains that the ANA refers to an RN with informatics experience as an “informatics nurse,” while a person with a graduate or postgraduate degree in informatics or a related field is called an “informatics nurse specialist.” However, educational approaches to teaching have not been standardized, which could hinder healthcare organizations’ recognition of the profession.
Programs such as the Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) initiative propose to spur adoption of nursing informatics roles, create career paths for the profession, and encourage continuing education and development of nursing informatics professionals. The goal of the TIGER program is to provide tools and resources for those interested in pursuing a career in nursing informatics to:
- Develop and implement best practices in education settings for competencies and curriculum
- Facilitate teamwork and professional relationships among the global healthcare workforce
- Customize nursing informatics competencies based on the needs of specific communities, regions, and countries
- Create a virtual learning environment featuring a resource library, webinars, and continuing education opportunities
Additionally, the National League for Nursing (NLN) Foundation for Nursing Education has established the J. Y. Pajarillo Health Informatics and Innovation Scholarship to support nursing informatics research in three areas:
- Converting nursing informatics concepts and theories into applications and systems that promote nursing education, practice, and science
- Establishing, expanding, and influencing the roles nursing informatics professionals play to increase the profession’s marketability and drive demand for nursing informatics positions
- Applying technology to nursing education to promote high-impact practice (HIP) learning for nursing students and practicing RNs
Resources on the Nursing Informatics Job Outlook
- Indeed, 10 Jobs for Health Informatics Professionals with Master’s Degrees — The jobs in nursing informatics profiled in this article include clinical informatics specialist, nursing informatics specialist, pharmacy informaticist, informatics analyst, informatics specialist, informatics manager, informatics director, electronic medical record keeper, health informatics consultant, and healthcare IT project manager.
- Calling Nursing Informatics Leaders: Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth — This study focuses on the critical nature of leadership in nursing informatics as the field continues to evolve, and it makes recommendations for individuals who want to strengthen their potential for leadership in nursing informatics.
Nursing is increasingly an information-driven profession. While nurses have always been considered knowledge workers, having ready access to vital information is the key to improving patient outcomes, reducing errors, and providing the most effective and efficient care possible.
Nursing informatics allows healthcare providers to offer higher-quality care to their patients and communities at greater efficiency and lower costs. The outlook for the profession and nursing informatics jobs could not be brighter.
Learn how the Maryville University online RN to BSN program can help you cultivate the nursing competencies to thrive in the role.