Nursing informatics is a rapidly growing field at the intersection of nursing, information technology, and data management.
It’s a nursing specialty that involves the use of technology and data to improve healthcare delivery, patient outcomes, and clinical decision-making.
In this post, we’ll explore the field of nursing informatics and why it’s important, how to become a Nurse Informaticist, how much they earn, and the career opportunities available to those interested in pursuing this quickly-developing area of nursing.
Table of Contents
- What Is Nursing Informatics?
- Why Is Nursing Informatics Important?
- What Does A Nurse Informaticist Do?
- Where Do Nurse Informaticists Work?
- Nursing Informatics Examples
- How To Become A Nurse Informaticist
- Nursing Informatics Certification
- Nurse Informaticist Salary
- Should You Become A Nurse Informaticist?
- Nursing Informatics FAQs
What Is Nursing Informatics?
Nursing Informatics is a field of nursing that integrates computer and information sciences with nursing practice. Nurses in this area collect, analyze, and apply healthcare data to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs in the most efficient ways possible.
As data and technology become more important in all areas of our life, nurses working in this quickly-developing field can take on a number of different responsibilities. There are three main components of nursing informatics:
Each of these components relates to specific areas of nursing informatics, which we discuss in more detail below.
Data is raw information that hasn’t yet been interpreted or organized. Some examples of data include:
- Blood Pressure
- Number of hospital visits within a given time frame
Nurse Informaticists focused on the data component may be tasked with determining what data needs to be collected or with developing information software and systems to collect that data.
Information is data that has been interpreted and from which some kind of meaning can be extrapolated. Examples of information include:
- Prevalence of patient falls by nursing unit
- Prevalence of decubitus ulcers within a given time frame
- Percent distribution of workload by activity category and nursing unit in a given time frame
Nurse Informaticists who are primarily focused on the information component are responsible for analyzing and interpreting raw data points in order to derive some sort of meaning from the data.
Finally, knowledge involves bringing information together in order to identify relationships that can be used to improve systems and processes to improve outcomes. Examples of knowledge include:
- How effective hip pads are at reducing the likelihood of hip fractures and whether they should be utilized
- The most effective treatment protocols (for example, the best treatment protocols for decubitus ulcers)
- The most effective deployment and use of various staff and nursing units
Nurse informaticists who focus on knowledge are responsible for determining and implementing new protocols based on the knowledge they’re able to synthesize from various pieces of information.
Why Is Nursing Informatics Important?
Nursing Informatics is important because it allows healthcare providers to better understand individual patient needs, as well as the best practices for various patient populations. The more information we’re able to collect about patients and healthcare procedures, the more we can interpret that information in order to deliver better results.
To make a comparison, think about data collection on websites like Google or Facebook. The more data they are able to collect about people, the more effectively they are able to target their ads.
First, they collect data. From that raw data, they’re then able to make connections and determine what people may be interested in certain ads. Finally, they implement that information by displaying the ads.
The more data they’re able to collect, the more effectively they’re able to implement advertising (after all, if the ads weren’t able to target people effectively, the platforms that make money by displaying them wouldn’t be some of the most valuable companies in the world).
Rather than make assumptions about best practices, they’re able to utilize hard data to draw more definitive conclusions.
Nursing Informatics uses data in a similar way. However, instead of collecting, analyzing, and implementing data in order to sell ads, they use it to improve the quality of healthcare delivery.
This is incredibly important because it removes a lot of the guesswork from determining the best practices in nursing for each healthcare facility. After all, the best practices in one facility could be different from another facility based on factors like the needs of patients and the available staff.
What Does A Nurse Informaticist Do?
Nursing Informatics is a wide-ranging and quickly-developing field, so it’s difficult to pin down the exact day-to-day responsibilities. However, some of the high-level tasks Nurse Informaticists often complete include:
- Developing and optimizing data collection systems
- Educating other healthcare staff how to use the information systems
- Analyzing data to develop new initiatives and policies
According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the four most common job responsibilities for Nurse Informaticists include:
- Systems Implementation (44%)
- System Optimization/Utilization (41%)
- Systems Development (31%)
- Quality Initiatives/Reporting (31%)
It’s also worth noting that the survey above reports that, while only less than 5% of Nurse Informaticists have less than one year of clinical nursing experience, over 70% perform no clinical work in their current role.
Below, we detail some more specific roles within the field of nursing informatics
Nursing Informatics Specialist
The most popular job title for those working in this area is Nursing Informatics Specialist. According to the HIMSS survey, this job title represents about 24% of those working the field.
Nursing Informatics Specialists usually work in hospitals or healthcare systems. Typical job responsibilities include:
- Implementing and evaluating information systems
- Educating staff on how to use the information systems
- Liaising between nursing and IT departments
The second-most popular job title for those working in this field is Clinical Analyst. According to the HIMSS survey, they represent 13% of Nurse Informaticists.
Clinical Analysts usually work in hospitals or medical offices, and their duties typically include:
- Evaluating information system performance
- Educating staff how to use systems
- Implementing and managing systems and computer networks
Director of Clinical Informatics
The third-most popular role in this field of nursing is Director of Clinical Informatics. They represent 11% of those working in this area according to the HIMSS survey.
Additionally, the fourth-most popular job title is Manager of Clinical Informatics, with 10% of workers identifying with this role.
The job responsibilities for these two job titles are very similar, and they both usually work in hospitals or healthcare systems. Their duties typically include:
- Educating and training other staff members
- Leading the informatics team
- Supervising the implementation of information systems
- Analyzing data to improve outcomes for patients and healthcare facilities
Chief Nursing Informatics Officer
Less than 5% of those working in this area of nursing have the role of Chief Informatics Officer. This is one of the highest-level positions in the field, and employers typically prefer candidates with a Doctorate-level degree.
Chief Nursing Informatics Officers usually work in hospitals and healthcare facilities. This is a leadership position where duties typically involve:
- Leading the nursing informatics department
- Managing all informatics-related projects
- Planning and implementing new systems
Another slightly less popular position in this area of nursing is Informatics Consultant.
They typically work in medical offices, hospitals, and healthcare facilities. However, consultants often work for multiple facilities at the same time on a contractual basis, meaning they’re brought in to solve a specific problem before moving onto a different contract.
Their duties usually include:
- Acting as an advisor in regards to new healthcare information systems
- Helping facilities discover new technologies they can implement
- Assisting in the implementation of new technologies and educating staff how to use it
Clinical Applications Specialist
A small percentage of nurses in this field work under the title Clinical Applications Specialist.
In this role, nurse informaticists typically work for healthcare technology companies. However, they typically travel to different healthcare facilities to teach staff members how to use their employer’s technology.
The responsibilities for this role typically revolve around guiding nursing teams how to use one specific type of technology.
One more job available to nurses in the informatics field is Nurse Educator. This can include both clinical instruction at a hospital, as well as classroom instruction, like college professors.
Because it’s important that you have a solid academic and teaching background to take on this position, you’ll need at least an MSN. However, if you hope to teach at a university, you’ll likely need a Doctorate-level degree.
Most importantly, this role involves teaching the next generation of nurses what nursing informatics is and how to implement knowledge from the field of informatics into their practice.
Where Do Nurse Informaticists Work?
Nursing informatics is a broad field combining technology, data, and healthcare, so the work settings can vary greatly depending on what type of role you decide to pursue.
For example, you can work in an academic setting, like a university, if you want to become a Nurse Educator and teach students about the field of informatics.
Alternatively, you may find yourself working in a medical office if you pursue a position like clinical analyst or consultant.
However, a lot of the roles, including the two we just mentioned, are often performed at a hospital or medical facility. In fact, close to 68% of Nurse Informaticists work in a hospital or health system according to the HIMSS survey
Since nursing informatics is a rapidly-developing area of nursing, you may find that your work setting opportunities may even include other places.
You may even be able to find a fully remote or hybrid position. The HIMSS survey claims that 45% of Nurse Informaticists reported working remotely at any point during their work week.
Nursing Informatics Examples
The following are example applications of informatics in four different areas of nursing.
As you’ll see, informatics can be applied in just about every realm of nursing, and each area involves a multitude of different applications.
In clinical practice, nursing informatics can help nurses access and analyze patient data quickly and accurately.
For example, electronic health records (EHRs) can provide nurses with real-time access to a patient’s:
- Medical history
- Laboratory results
- Vital signs
This data allows nurses to make more informed decisions about patient care.
Additionally, nursing informatics can help nurses monitor and track patient outcomes over time. This allows them to identify trends or patterns that may indicate the need for intervention or adjustment of care plans.
Nursing informatics can also play a significant role in nursing education.
For instance, online learning management systems (LMS) can provide nursing students with access to educational resources and course materials, allowing them to study at their own pace and on their own time.
Additionally, simulation technology can allow nursing students to practice and develop their clinical skills in a safe, controlled environment before they work with actual patients.
In administration, nursing informatics can help healthcare organizations:
- Improve efficiency
- Reduce costs
- Enhance patient care
For example, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) can help healthcare organizations track patient outcomes and identify areas for improvement in care delivery.
Additionally, healthcare analytics tools can help administrators make data-driven decisions about resource allocation and strategic planning.
Finally, they can monitor the performance of individual healthcare providers and departments.
In research, nursing informatics can help researchers gather, analyze, and interpret data more efficiently and accurately.
For example, data mining techniques can help identify patterns and relationships within large datasets, providing researchers with valuable insights into the underlying causes of disease and other health issues.
Additionally, nursing informatics can help researchers:
- Design and implement clinical trials
- Manage study data
- Communicate findings to stakeholders
How To Become A Nurse Informaticist
To become a Nurse Informaticist, you’ll need to complete the following steps.
1. Earn Your BSN
The first step to becoming a Nurse Informaticist is to earn your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree. While you technically only need an Associate Degree in Nursing to become a Registered Nurse, getting your BSN will make you a much stronger job candidate in this area of nursing.
Earning your BSN will provide you with the high-level knowledge you need to successfully develop and implement new healthcare technology, and you can typically earn your degree in about four years at a traditional college or university.
If you’re already an ADN-educated nurse, you can always enroll in an online RN to BSN program to get your degree in just a year or two.
The BSN will also set the academic foundation you need to pursue an advanced degree later on, which could be a necessity if you hope to take on high-level nursing informatics positions.
2. Pass The NCLEX
Once you earn your Bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX in order to become a Registered Nurse.
While over 70% of Nurse Informaticists perform no clinical work in their current role, less than 5% have less than one year of clinical experience. So, it may make sense to get some clinical nursing experience before you look for informatics roles.
Gaining some clinical experience may also help you perform your duties as a Nurse Informaticist better. It will give you a better understanding of how the data you collect relates to nursing practice.
Additionally, some graduate-level programs require that you have some clinical experience under your belt before you can apply.
3. Earn Your MSN
While there are some Nursing Informatics roles that you can take on with only a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree, many higher-level positions will require that you hold a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree.
It’s worth noting that there are MSN programs designed specifically for those interested in Nursing Informatics.
If you hope to work in a leadership position in the area of informatics, an MSN with a focus in informatics will be your best preparation. Fortunately, there are quite a few online MSN programs you can enroll in which allow you to earn your Master’s degree with a flexible schedule.
4. Earn Your DNP
Finally, many of the highest-level positions in the field of Nursing Informatics may require you to hold a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree.
For example, if you hope to become a Nurse Educator at a university or a Chief Informatics Officer, you’ll likely need to earn your terminal degree.
Earning your DNP is the best way to prepare for leadership positions where you’ll lead entire departments in the development and implementation of new healthcare technologies.
Nursing Informatics Certification
While earning a certification isn’t mandatory to work in this field, you do have the option to become certified. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Informatics Nursing Certification.
To be eligible for certification, you must:
- Hold an active RN license
- Hold a BSN or Bachelor’s degree in a related field
- Have practiced at least two years as a full-time Registered Nurse
- Have completed 30 or more hours of continuing education credits in Nursing Informatics within the last three years
- Meet one of the following practice hour requirements:
- Practiced a minimum of 2,000 hours in Informatics Nursing within the last three years
- Practiced a minimum of 1,000 hours in Informatics Nursing in the last three years and completed at least 12 semester hours of academic credit in a graduate-level informatics courses
- Completed a Master’s-level Nursing Informatics program containing a minimum of 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum in Informatics Nursing
As long as you meet the eligibility requirements above, you can sit for the certification exam. If you pass, your certification is valid for five years, at which point you’ll need to renew the certification.
According to 2021 ANCC Certification data, 68% of those taking the Informatics Nursing exam passed. Of the 412 nurses that took the test, 281 of them passed. Meanwhile, 312 nurses renewed their certification, and the total number of those with certification is 3,132.
Finally, it’s worth noting that 47% of those who became certified claimed that certification has been highly impactful on their career, and 41% have moved into a new role since achieving certification, according to the HIMSS survey.
Nurse Informaticist Salary
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide any specific details regarding Nursing Informatics salaries, the HIMSS survey provides us with some insights.
49% of Nurse Informaticists reported earning over $100,000 in 2020, which was up from 45% in 2017 and 33% in 2014. Meanwhile, less than 10% reported earning less than $60,000, and over 10% reported earning over $151,000 in 2020.
Unsurprisingly, those with more experience and more advanced educational credentials earned a higher salary. Additionally, 56% of certified Nurse Informaticists reported earning over $100,000.
Finally, it’s worth noting that more than 70% reported receiving the following benefits:
- Paid time off (86%)
- 401k/403(b) (85%)
- Medical/dental insurance (85%)
- Life insurance (72%)
Again, Nursing Informatics is a broad field that encompasses various different roles. Your earning potential will be determined by your specific role, the amount of experience you have, your location, and your educational credentials.
Should You Become A Nurse Informaticist?
If you take an interest in both nursing and technology, becoming a nurse informaticist could be an excellent career choice.
By combining data, information, and knowledge, you can impact the field of nursing in several different ways. Whether you’re clinically-, educationally-, or administratively-focused, you can find a position that allows you to improve outcomes for patients, staff, or healthcare facilities.
As information systems become more complex and increasingly interwoven into the fabric of everyday healthcare and nursing, Nurse Informaticists have never been more important than they are now.
If you’re interested in becoming a Nurse Informaticist, click here to discover a degree program that can help you achieve your career goals.
Nursing Informatics FAQs
The following are frequently asked questions regarding Nursing Informatics.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Informaticist?
The time it takes to become a Nurse Informaticist varies from person to person. Additionally, it will vary depending on what type of position you want to pursue.
For example, a Nurse Informatics Specialist will need to earn at least their BSN degree, which usually takes four years. Then, they may need to gain some RN experience or experience in an informatics-related role.
On the other hand, a Chief Informatics Officer will likely need to take some additional years to earn their MSN, and maybe even their DNP.
Is There A Demand For Nursing Informatics?
The demand for Nursing Informatics is continually growing. This is due to a number of factors, including:
- Increasing adoption of new technologies
- Growing need for data management
- Shortage of qualified healthcare professionals
- Regulatory requirements, like HIPAA, and the need for secure data and patient information
Can Nurse Informaticists Work Remotely?
According to the 2020 HIMSS survey, many Nurse Informaticists do work remotely.
21% claimed that they work remotely every day, while 29% claimed that they work remotely one day a week.
Only 18% reported that they work remotely less than one day a week.
Is Nursing Informatics Difficult?
Whether or not you find Nursing Informatics difficult will depend on your own interests and competencies.
For example, if you’re tech savvy and enjoy staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest healthcare tech, it’s probably a perfect fit.
However, if you struggle to use technology and aren’t one to keep up with new trends, this career could be especially challenging.
How Stressful Is Nursing Informatics?
Nursing Informatics may or may not be stressful depending on your own interests and personality.
For example, many may find working with data and hard numbers less stressful than providing direct clinical care to patients.
However, others may find aspects of Nursing Informatics, like troubleshooting technical problems, far more stressful than communicating with patients all day.