What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles: Nursing Informatics Specialist, NI
Career Overview: Informatics Nurses maximize the efficiency of information and communications in the field of nursing.
Career Salary Range: $60,000 to $160,000
Estimated Years of Schooling Required: 6
Required Minimum Degree/License: Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing or Information Management
Become an Informatics Nurse
An Informatics Nurse is a specialty nurse who integrates nursing science with information science. The process involves data analysis, collection, manipulation and management as well as using various methods for data communication. In establishing and sharing data, Informatics Nurses, also called an Nurse Informatics Specialist or “NI,” support patients, consumers, nurses and other staff members in making informed, evidence-based healthcare-related decisions. Information technology use in nursing is ultimately designed to help improve future healthcare by improving patient outcomes, boosting efficiency and cutting costs.
Today, healthcare information technology has streamlined the way hospitals store, maintain and process patient data. For this reason, Informatics Nurses impact the development, implementation and optimization of all facility or clinic information through the use of documentation, electronic health records and computerized practitioner order entry. They are also responsible for maintaining data and communication standards, defining healthcare policy to advance public health, concept representation, and vision and management of information technology. In most cases, Informatics Nurses will not be responsible for performing any patient care duties.
“Nursing is really a profession aimed at helping people and improving the quality of lives,” Brittney Wilson, BSN, RN, founder of The Nerdy Nurse and Health Media Academy, and author of the book The Nurse’s Guide to Blogging, said. “Informatics Nurses do this by optimizing technology systems and creating development resources that help Nurses perform their roles better.”
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Education & Training
To become an Informatics Nurse, learners must obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, ideally in information management for nurses. Typically, Informatics Nurses begin their careers as Registered Nurses, then return to school to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing or Informatics. Upon completion of a Master’s Degree program, professionals can become certified in nurse informatics by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or in Healthcare Information and Management Systems through the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. As Healthcare informatics continues to expand, so education options continue to advance, on-site training and continuing education are increasingly common.
“There is a certification program for Informatics Nurses, but the program is fairly new so not many professions have completed the certification,” Wilson explained. “For this reason, those interested in pursuing informatics nursing should become certified so they potentially have an edge over other candidates.”
She added that in her opinion, a Master’s Degree gives an Informatics Nurse the ability to speak more intelligently about topics related to the field. Wilson said that possession of an advanced degree also allows professionals to reach a higher initial salary.
One way for an Informatics Nurse to start or advance their career in informatics is to become a “super user”. These super users are often staff RNs who have either shown an interest in informatics or have been identified by management as having an aptitude for computer informatics. The super-users may be volunteers or maybe asked by management to take additional technology training. Super users are often required when a new system is being installed or updated.
The training usually provides super users with greater access to programs and allows more opportunity to provide feedback to other members of staff and to develop innovative ideas. Often nurses who become super users become so interested in information technology they switch their career path to focus on informatics. Nurses without advanced degrees can quickly advance their careers by pursuing a higher degree such as a Master’s Degree or PhD in Nursing Informatics.
“The Master’s Degree program provides professionals with knowledge about different informationation tools and technology that are helpful in many types of roles within a hospital,” Wilson said.
Experience & Skills
To be a successful Informatics Nurse, a professional should have technical and computer skills, allowing them to understand the operations and functionality of electronic health records and other forms of nursing information. They should also possess business administration and project management skills, including the ability to respond to calls and emails, passing on information all the while maintaining patient confidentiality.
Additionally, NIs should have management and interpersonal skills, helping them to communicate and collaborate with team members and associates. These professionals should also be able to think critically, work to solve problems and be able to thoroughly assess information.
“In this role, professionals should have a thorough understanding of technology,” Wilson said. “Communication skills are also important, because as an Informatics Nurse I’m also a translator. I need to be able to take complex ideas and simplify them for other people.”
Wilson added that an example of when she needed to simplify an idea was when she was working to support a homecare electronic health record. She would meet weekly to explain complex technical issues in simple ways to staff members.
“Successful Informatics Nurses are most likely people who are highly analytical, passionate about technology, and able to translate and educate,” Wilson said.
Above all, Informatics Nurses must be able to collaborate and work as part of a larger healthcare team. This is because these professionals are often communicating with Physicians, Pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to make informed decisions.
“An Informatics Nurse should have a personality that’s resilient and fun to be around,” Wilson said. “They should be really passionate about technology and using electronic documentation and other technological resources to improve the practice of nursing. Those who can get excited about teaching and educating are also important in this career.”
“Informatics is a really broad spectrum of nursing careers,” Wilson explained. “Many people think that an Informatics Nurse is always someone who works for a hospital on electronic medical records. However, informatics includes people who work for technology or healthcare technology companies.”
She continued that, the lifestyle and amount of flexibility an Informatics Nurse has truly depends on their employer. For example, Informatics Nurse Consultants may spend much of their year traveling, while Nurse Informatics Educators may spend their days inside a classroom.
“Software companies and vendors tend to be more flexible, while hospitals tend to stick with rigid schedules and work locations,” Wilson said. When new products are being installed or updated, all nursing shifts must be covered by informatic experts and therefor occasional evening, weekend or night shifts may be required.
Now is a great time to consider beginning a career as an Informatics Nurse! This is because this career in healthcare is projected to grow 26 percent by 2020. This growth can largely be attributed to an increasing patient population as a result of the aging baby boomer generation.
The majority of Informatics Nurses are employed by hospitals, multi-facility health systems or by corporate offices. Roughly half of these professionals find employment in Magnet designated hospitals.
“The easiest way to find employment as an Informatics Nurse is to obtain a clinical role within a health system and then become really proficient in your unit as a technology superuser ”. Wilson advised. “Make clear that you’re really interested in training and being the first resource for new innovations and technology.”
Wilson added that she initially gained employment as an Informatics Nurse by learning as much as she could about the specialty, and then researching open positions. She said she also had a resume expert help her to tailor her resume for the informatics nursing industry.
The median annual salary for an Informatics Nurse is roughly $100,000, with the lowest 10 percent of professionals earning less than $60,000 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $160,000 annually. Most often, the higher the degree which an NI professional holds, the higher their annual salary will be.
“Generally, informatics nursing is a specialty, so there’s a higher pay scale than there is working on the floor,” Wilson said. “When I became an Informatics Nurse, I believe I instantly got a 20 or 30 percent raise. Earning well over six figures is not uncommon in informatics nursing roles.”
Wilson added that in this industry, hospitals generally pay less than companies that develop products for healthcare providers.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is an organization comprised of informaticians, clinicians, scientists, researchers, educators, students, and other informatics professionals. The AMIA is designed to support the current and next generation of informatics professionals.
- When completing a Bachelor’s Degree Nursing program, ask to do the final clinical rotation in the IT department or with an Informatics Nurse
- Watch videos and read books on informatics nursing to increase that skill set and knowledge
- Obtain advanced degrees (Master’s Degree, Ph.D.) as soon as possible
- Network with other professionals
- Show your skill set within your organization and “build a brand” of being an expert of technology
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
Meet the professional: Brittany Wilson, BSN, RN
Practice: The Nerdy Nurse/Health Stream
Location: Nashville, TN
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Learn how to talk the talk and have a professional resume writer help you update your resume so that the resume is tailored to this new technical industry.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“They enter this career as a way to escape the bedside, or what they perceive as a stressful career. What ends up happening is that people who are not especially passionate about technology or who are not technology proficient begin to work and realize that this is more stressful to them. They then create a negative environment.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“How can I better emphasize and understand this critical role in communication?”
Why did you choose to become an informatics nurse?
“I’ve been nerdy since the day I was born. One of the reasons I decided to pursue nursing rather than a technical career was the Dotcom Crash. Then, when I discovered there was a way to blend my love for technology with the beautiful profession that is nursing, the career chose me.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would that be?
*Credentialing organizations: The American Nurses Credentialing Center and The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society