Learn What You'll Do and What Traits You Need to Succeed as a Nurse Informatics Specialist

Learn what nursing informatics specialists do and see if you would be a good fit.

What You'll Do

  • Design, create, test, put into place and evaluate new or modified information solutions and data
  • Consult with nurses on hardware and software configuration
  • Analyze information systems data in order to improve nursing services and reduce errors
  • Act as translator between nurses, system engineers, analysts or designers using certain techniques
  • Create strategies and policies to introduce, evaluate or modify information technology
  • Develop ways to better ensure patient security and confidentiality
  • Circulate nursing informatics information to health care field and public

As technology continues to advance, exciting new careers pop up, like a nursing informatics specialist. While more technical than other nursing careers, the main goal of nursing informatics is enhancing patient care. Better information systems and data mean less medical errors and better patient security and confidentiality.

It's a specialized area of nursing which incorporates computer, nursing and information science. Nursing informatics is growing career; learn what traits and skills are needed to succeed in this job.

You are...You should have...
Analytic Problem-solving skills
A great listener Excellent communication skills
An active learner Ability to generate many ideas
An original thinker Good judgment and decision-making skills
Organized Ability to maintain interpersonal relationships
An initiator Critical thinking 

 

Why It's Important

Technology is an integral part of any healthcare organization. To stay on the cutting edge, more facilities are recognizing the importance of having a healthcare IT professional on staff.

In their 2016 Leadership Survey, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) examines the latest trends in healthcare IT. According to their findings, 95 percent of respondents "view health IT as a strategically critical tool to help healthcare organizations be successful."

This is good news if you're interested in pursuing a career in a critically vital field. The majority of respondents to the survey said this type of role can help with efforts focused on patient care. This includes clinical integration, primary care provider efficiency, mandated quality metrics improvement, and care coordination.

As a nurse informatics specialist, you can help deliver better results by performing tasks such as these:

  • Policy writing
  • Training and supporting system users
  • Designing systems
  • Quality control
  • Project management
  • Choosing systems

Being able to disseminate information and understand data can also help improve a healthcare organization's patient outcomes and allow them to make better decisions.

Where You Can Work

Nursing informatics isn't just needed in hospitals or large medical facilities. Other areas of the medical field—public health, pharmacology and global health—need the expertise and tech-savviness of a these professionals.

If you're looking for a leadership role in nursing, informatics can also afford you that opportunity. Because you'll be responsible for creating strategies, implementing policies and ensuring better patient care, specialists can be a great fit for someone looking to move into advanced nursing. According to the HIMSS survey, 71 percent of healthcare organizations employ a "clinical IT leader" such as a Chief Nursing Informatics Officer.

Organizations with this type of leadership role tended to place a higher importance on health IT than their counterparts, according to the survey.

Even if you're not ready for an executive level position, there are plenty of roles available for skilled professionals. Jobs that fall under this umbrella include nurse managers, nurse communicators and nurse programmers. In general, an informatics job will require you to act as a technology liaison but you'll be expected to complete other duties as well.

How to Become a Nursing Informatics Specialist

While computer skills are necessary to enter the field, the main entry point into this career is with a registered nurse (RN) license.

To become an RN, you'll need to earn either an associate's or bachelor's degree from an approved nursing school. However, if your ultimate career plans include informatics, it's best to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). This is typically the minimum requirement for informatics jobs at healthcare facilities.

After you've completed a degree program, you'll need to become licensed. Nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in order to become licensed in their state.

If you want to advance your degree and specialize accordingly, earning a master's in nursing (MSN) can help.

Undergraduate nursing programs will include a wide array of healthcare and nursing courses including:

  • Nursing research
  • Public health nursing
  • Anatomy
  • Nursing practice and theory
  • Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Health promotion and disease prevention

If you pursue a graduate education in informatics, your coursework will prepare you for a career that straddles the line between nursing and technology. Some of the classes you might take include:

  • Systems analysis and design
  • Healthcare database systems
  • Workflow in healthcare systems
  • Nurse leadership
  • Transforming nursing through technology

Certification is the next step toward becoming a specialist. Once you've completed your degree program, you'll need to earn certification credentials from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

HIMSS provides two certification options for nurses who hold a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited school. If you have five years or less of experience, you can take an exam to earn the Certified Associate in Healthcare Information Management Systems (CAHIMS) credential. If you have more experience in health care IT, the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) certification demonstrates your advanced knowledge and skill set.

Job Outlook for Specialists

Evolving technology and its role in healthcare has created a need for skilled specialists. Nurses with advanced computer skills and a deep understanding of how technology affects healthcare can differentiate themselves in the field.

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't specifically track job outlook or salary for nurse informatics specialists, computer systems analysts have similar job duties. It expects a 21 percent increase in employment through 2024, which is much faster than average.

We can also look at research conducted by industry experts to gain better insight into the job outlook.

 In recent surveys conducted by HIMSS, they found that 79 percent of these employers planned to hire more healthcare IT staff in the near future.

Nursing Informatics Salaries

The median annual salary for computer systems analysts is $85,800, but there is potential to earn more. Advanced degrees and professional certification can help boost your salary potential.

According to HIMSS' Salary Calculator & Compensation Survey, the average salary for health information technology professionals is $111,388. The median salary is $90,000.

The survey also examined where salaries are highest and lowest in the country. The Pacific region, home to tech hubs like Seattle and San Francisco, boasts jobs with the highest pay ($127,117). Healthcare IT professionals in the southwestern and south central states tend to earn the lowest salaries ($101,000) in the industry.

As you embark on your degree program or career, remember that the healthcare sector needs experts in the field who can identify problems, pinpoint solutions and train others.

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