The healthcare industry relies on data and technology to examine health systems, reduce costs and improve patient care.
Nursing informatics specialists play an essential role in using technology and assessing data through the unique lens of a healthcare professional who has provided direct patient care.
Nurses are a perfect fit for the role of an informaticist because they’re familiar with the everyday workings of a hospital and understand what makes a system run successfully.
A nurse's clinical care experience provides them with the skills they’ll need to absorb the data and determine how decisions can affect healthcare.
The History of Informatics in Nursing
In the 1800s, Florence Nightingale gathered and analyzed health data, and was known as a passionate statistician. Because she utilized data in healthcare, she could be called the first informatics nurse.
Data collection was conducted differently in her time than in most healthcare institutions today. But, like informatics nurses today, Nightingale advocated for patient safety and better patient outcomes.
What is Nursing Informatics?
When modern healthcare workers think about informatics nurses, they may think of electronic health records and data entry. But the role of an informatics nurse in practice is much broader.
“An informatics nurse is responsible for data collection and analysis to improve patient care. They ensure healthcare personnel and patients are health literate and educated in the technology they use,” said Deb Adams, assistant professor of nursing at Nebraska Methodist College (NMC). “They also assess environmental factors within healthcare such as workflow and usability.”
Nurses are the most frequent user of electronic health records and understand the processes and workflows of everyday patient care.
“Because of the nursing informaticists' experience as clinicians, they can close the gap between clinical and technology,” Adams said.
Informatics specialization gives nurses the ability to evolve healthcare using data and analytics. Because of their clinical experience, they’re positioned to act as a liaison between the nursing staff and the information technology team in a healthcare facility.
Read more: 6 Reasons Why Nursing Informatics Is Here to Stay
Who Would Make a Good Informatics Nurse?
As a nurse informatics specialist, you’ll transition from working directly with patients to working in an office. This change is for you if you:
- Are seeking a nurse position away from the bedside.
- Like to investigate and solve problems.
- Pay close attention to detail.
- Follow the rules.
- Are passionate about technology.
- Have leadership abilities.
- Are motivated by social responsibility.
- Can imagine new ideas.
- Are independent.
How to Become an Informatics Nurse
Nursing informatics positions are not entry-level positions. To be considered for this role, nurses must have the following:
- Several years of experience working in healthcare.
- Technological savvy.
- An advanced degree or certificate.
Getting a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics will give you the education you need to harness data from multiple sources to develop action steps that improve outcomes at the patient and population levels.
At NMC, a master’s degree in nursing, with a specialization in informatics, is 100% online to accommodate the schedules of professional nurses.
“I am proud of completing my degree as a full-time graduate student while also working full-time,” said Dana Elsasser, an NMC graduate. “The flexibility of the MSN program at NMC allowed me to continue to work without cutting hours at my job.”
Courses are five or 10 weeks long, with one week off in between courses. Students can access the classes at any time.
“The online program was extremely accommodating and easy to navigate,” Elsasser said. “It was designed to accommodate a work/life balance as the classes were staggered throughout the length of the program.”
Bachelor’s-prepared nurses can complete the MSN program in 21 months. Registered nurses can also enroll in the master’s program, completing their nursing informatics degree in 33 months.
Read more: Should You Get Your Master’s in Nursing?
For nurses with a master’s degree, a post-master’s certificate in nursing informatics allows them to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to work in healthcare informatics. The certificate program can be completed online in 12 to 16 months.
Watch: Master of Science in Nursing Virtual Information Session
Career Opportunities for Informatics Nurses
Depending on interests and experience, informatics nurses can work in a variety of settings, including:
- Educational institutions.
- Consulting firms.
- Insurance companies.
- Public health organizations.
- Research labs.
- Various medical software vendors, such as CyncHealth, EPIC and Cerner.
“Nursing informatics offers a wide variety of opportunities and rewarding challenges,” said Adams. “Some remote positions and larger facilities offer upward mobility. The role of a nursing informaticist is constantly evolving, which provides more opportunities.”
Salaries for nurse informaticists vary in the United States based on geography, job description, specialty and experience.
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conducted a survey in 2020 that found a median annual salary of $100,000 across the U.S., with nursing informatics certification holders generating a higher average salary than those who don't.
How to Get Your Degree in Nursing Informatics
Fill out an online application for the MSN Nurse Informatics program.
Visit the program webpage to review specific application requirements for your program of interest.
If you have questions, reach out to an admissions coordinator at (402) 354-7200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.