Your Guide to a Career in Nursing Informatics

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Nursing informatics is a fast-growing field. Find out more about nursing informatics jobs, salary, educational requirements, and responsibilities.

[Featured Image]:  A nurse, wearing a purple uniform, a purple head covering, and a blue face covering, is checking the charts of a patient on a computer, in the operating room.

Nursing informatics is a growing component of the health care field that combines patient care with data and technology. Along with other careers in this field, nursing informatics works to improve patient care and outcomes through the analysis of data and innovative technologies.

You can break into this field with a nursing degree and licensure as an RN. Certification and graduate degrees are common and highly sought out but not always required. 

The job outlook and annual earnings for this profession continue to rise and are projected to grow with increased demand for medical professionals and technological advances in health care. Read on to learn more about this interesting arm of the nursing profession. 

What is nursing informatics?

Nursing informatics is the practice of using data and technology to improve patient experience and outcomes within the field of health care. Nursing informatics analysts (sometimes called specialists) analyze and collect data and use the findings to build and create new technology or improve existing systems to improve patient care and safety. Nursing informatics also includes developing new health care policies based on data to benefit patients and the community at large. Nursing informatics analysts might also educate and train clinical staff members on new policies, informational systems, or software changes. 

Why is nursing informatics important?

Nursing informatics is important because it allows for technological innovation in the field of nursing in a way that advocates for and promotes patient care beyond one-on-one clinical nursing. Nursing informatics harnesses the fields of information technology and health care to provide evidence-based approaches and methodologies to nursing and health care in general. 

Nursing informatics objectively and statistically looks at data that can be hard to quantify. Patient care is subjective in many ways, but the hope is that using data-driven approaches to nursing will improve patient care in a meaningful way and enhance the clinical experience for both providers and patients. In many ways, it’s truly the future of health care as more health care systems and facilities move to software systems, hardware systems, and cloud-based storage. 

What are the main duties and responsibilities of a nursing informatics role?

The main duties and responsibilities of a nursing informatics role are to correctly and accurately collect and analyze data, and then use it to improve patient care. A nursing informatics analyst focuses on creating solutions, implementing new systems to achieve these goals, and disseminating that information to health care providers and other stakeholders. 

Communicating the process

As a nursing informatics analyst, you will implement processes, which you then monitor and manage. For example, you might decide how to enter data into an organization's electronic health record (EHR) system properly. Correct and accurate information is critical to data collection, but more importantly, patient safety. A nursing informatics analyst communicates processes for systems like data collection and educates clinical staff members on the importance of these processes. 

At this point, the clinical and technological sides of things come together. Health care providers need a process for data entry that is mindful of their needs. Since nursing informatics specialists have a nursing background and clinical experience, they can bridge that gap and communicate processes in a way that health care providers can understand and appreciate. 

Implementing new technology

Analyzing data and implementing change based on those outcomes is key to the work of a nursing informatics professional. Results from the 2020 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey found that the top three responsibilities of nursing informatics are systems implementation (44 percent), utilization/optimization (41 percent), and systems development (34 percent) [1]. An example of new technology could be an EHR or point-of-care data management system. 

Validating data

Like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, an essential part of a nursing informatics role is assessing the validity of available data and making something of it. Clinical background with training in computer science and information technology comes in handy while sifting through copious amounts of data, pulling it all together in a useful, meaningful way. A nursing informatics analyst understands the data and uses it to develop systems for implementing policy changes. 

What qualifications and certifications are required to work in nursing informatics?

To become a nursing informatics analyst, you’ll need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, obtain a license to work as an RN, and have several years of professional clinical experience working as an RN. A master’s degree in nursing informatics, computer science, or a related field is often a requirement, with many nursing informatics analysts earning their master’s after gaining clinical experience as an RN. Certification is not required to practice but is highly recommended as employers commonly require it. 

When looking for a nursing informatics program, make sure it’s accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).  You can find online or in-person programs. A few examples of coursework expected as part of an accredited MSN in nursing informatics program include:

  • Information technology management

  • User-training strategies

  • Information systems in health care

  • Leadership and management techniques

  • Information technology project management 

If you already hold a master’s degree in nursing, you can earn additional post-master’s certificates specific to nursing informatics. 

You do not need a master’s degree to be eligible to take the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) certification exam, but you do need an active RN license, at least two years of nursing experience, and 30 hours of continuing education in nursing informatics. You'll also need to meet practice hour requirements. This exam aims to give you official certification to work as an RN-BC or Registered Nurse-Board Certified. 

Do I need a license to practice nursing informatics?

The only license you need to practice nursing informatics is a registered nurse (RN) license. If you do not hold an RN license, you can take the NCLEX-RN exam and get licensure in your state. You need to maintain this license while working as a nursing informatics specialist, but no additional licenses are necessary.  

Where can I work once I’m qualified in nursing informatics?

nursing informatics analysts are qualified to work in many different types of facilities in a number of industries, including health care facilities, academia, technology companies, research companies, the military, ambulatory care centers, and consulting firms.

Any industry or organization that develops health care technology or handles healthcare-related data may hire a nursing informatics professional. However, it seems that the majority of nursing informatics analysts, 68 percent, still work in hospitals and other health care facilities [1]

What do nursing informatics professionals earn?

Nursing informatics specialists earn an average base pay of $92,580 a year, as reported by Glassdoor[2]. This does not include any bonuses or profit-sharing you may receive. Your years of experience, certification, level of education, and the employer could all affect annual earnings.  

Career progression

Several pathways in nursing informatics allow for progress into upper-level, higher-paying positions. A few roles you may be eligible for as a nursing informatics specialist include the following:

  • Chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO): You can move into this position after working as an entry-level nursing informatics specialist, gaining certification, and earning an advanced degree. In this role, you oversee and manage other informatics professionals. Since this is considered a senior-level position, professional experience is a must. 

  • Nurse executive: This role involves a shift from purely informatics to also including health care administration, which is another widely growing field in health care management and information technology. Nurse executives also work with patients indirectly, improving patient care in similar ways to a nursing informatics job role. To become a nurse executive, you’ll just need to earn the appropriate nurse executive certification. The core educational requirements are still the same. 

  • Nursing informatics educator: In this role, you create systems along with other nursing informatics analysts, but you also lead training and create training materials and methods for other nurses and professionals to use. You may work in academia or in a health care facility. Experience and a graduate degree, as well as certification, are requirements. 

  • Nursing informatics consultant: Once you have worked in nursing informatics for several years, you may be ready to move into an upper-level position like this one. In this role, you might train staff on information systems, manage projects, and even help to develop software systems and other solutions for industries like ambulatory care centers, hospitals, nursing homes, government health facilities, and more.  

Get started

Whether you’re just graduating high school or on to a second career, you can choose one of many pathways to work in nursing informatics. The demand for this position is high, and it’s only growing with more advances in technology in the health care system. Health care is a huge field with a lot of data—and the need for data analysis is vast. 

To learn more about positions within nursing informatics, consider enrolling in a course like Nursing Informatics Training and Education, offered on Coursera. This series of courses provides a deeper understanding of the skills and tools you’ll need to be an effective leader in nursing informatics. 

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Article sources

1

HIMSS. “HIMSS 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey Executive Summary, https://www.himss.org/sites/hde/files/media/file/2020/11/19/nursinginformaticsworkforcesurveyexectivesummary-2-final.pdf.” Accessed May 11, 2022.  

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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