Your Guide to a Career in Nursing Informatics

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Nursing informatics is a growing component of the health care field that combines patient care with data and technology. Learn how nursing informatics works to improve patient care and outcomes through the analysis of data and innovative technologies.

[Featured image] A nursing informatics specialist in maroon scrubs accesses a patient database at a standing workstation in a hospital.

Because nursing informatics is a specialized nursing field, you can enter it with a nursing degree and licensure as an RN. Certification and graduate degrees are common and highly sought after, but they are 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 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. 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 allows 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 information technology and health care to provide evidence-based approaches and methodologies to nursing and general health care. 

Nursing informatics objectively and statistically examines 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 meaningfully and enhance the clinical experience for providers and patients. It’s truly the future as more health care systems and facilities move to software, hardware, and cloud-based storage. 

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

A nursing informatics role's primary duties and responsibilities are to correctly and accurately collect and analyze data and 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 you monitor and manage. For example, you might decide how to properly enter data into an organization's electronic health record (EHR) system. Correct and accurate information is critical to data collection and, 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 data entry process 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 so 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 per cent), utilization/optimization (41 per cent), and systems development (34 per cent) [1]. An example of new technology could be an EHR or point-of-care data management system. 

Validating data

Like putting together the puzzle pieces, an essential part of a nursing informatics role is assessing the validity of available data and making something of it. A clinical background with computer science and information technology training 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 must first become an RN. In most cases, that requires a bachelor’s degree in nursing, obtaining a license to work as an RN and several years of professional clinical experience. After, a diploma or postgraduate course may be required to begin working in nurse informatics. For some positions, a master’s degree in nursing informatics, computer science, or a related field may be a requirement, with many nursing informatics analysts earning their master’s after gaining clinical experience as an RN. 

You can find online or in-person programs to study nurse informatics. A few examples of coursework expected as part of a 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. 

In partnership with HIMSS, Digital Health Canada offers a Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems – Canada (CPHIMS-CA) certification for nurses to demonstrate they have informatics skills. While these credentials are not always required to begin working in nursing informatics, they will open additional opportunities for you. 

Do I need a license to practice nursing informatics?

The only license you need to practice nursing informatics is a registered nurse (RN) license. To work as a registered nurse, you must maintain licensure through the regulating agency for the province where you wish to work. All territories and provinces of Canada require licensure.  

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

Nursing informatics analysts are eligible to work in various facilities in many industries, including health care facilities, academia, technology companies, research companies, the military, ambulatory care centers, and consulting firms.

Any industry or organization developing health care technology or handling healthcare-related data may hire a nursing informatics professional. However, it seems most nursing informatics analysts—68 per cent—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 $86,226 a year, as reported by Glassdoor [2]. This does not include any bonuses or profit-sharing you may receive. Your years of experience, certification, education level, and your 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 a senior-level position, professional experience is a must. 

  • Nurse executive: This role involves a shift from pure informatics to health care administration, another widely growing field in health care management and information technology. Nurse executives also work with patients indirectly, improving patient care similarly to a nursing informatics job role. 

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

  • 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 growing with more advances in health care technology. Health care is a vast 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 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.

Article sources


HIMSS. “HIMSS 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey Executive Summary,” Accessed April 12, 2024.  

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