Here’s What You’ll Study in Nursing Informatics Degree Program
What nursing informatics degree levels are available?
Nurse informatics specialists must hold an active registered nurse (RN) license and to get there, you can earn a diploma from an approved nursing school, an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing. But tread cautiously with an associate’s degree.
Many organizations require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to work as a nurse informatics specialist. If you’ve earned an associate’s degree, you can find accelerated RN-to-BSN programs, which gives you credit for prior coursework. Earning a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Care Administration degrees can also help you in your nursing informatics career.
Master’s degrees in health care informatics are available from many schools, many of which are online.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
There are a couple routes you can take on your path toward a nursing informatics degree. If you know you want to enter the field of informatics, you might consider earning a BS in health care administration.
This takes care of general education requirements, but also covers topics like the practices of health care administration, management skills and ethical and legal standards. These areas of study can be particularly relevant in a nurse informatics career.
Meanwhile, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program also covers general education requirements and then prepares students to work as a registered nurse in a clinical setting.
As an example of a typical course load for a BS in health care administration, Purdue University Global offers the following courses:
Examples of BS Courses
- Introduction to health science
- Health care administration
- Health care policy and economics
- Research methods for health sciences
- Organization and management for health care
- Finance for health care
As a snapshot of a BSN program, Briarcliffe College’s online program provides the following training:
Examples of BSN Courses
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Physical examination and health assessment
- Communication and collaboration
- Critical thinking
- Genetics and Genomics
- Information management
Master’s Degree Programs
Unlike a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) where you learn about a wide range of nursing issues, a Master of Science (MSN) in Health Care Informatics program trains you specifically for a job as a nurse informatics specialist.
To get a better understanding of the coursework involved in a MSN in informatics, here’s a sampling of classes you might take:
Health law and ethics: Covers topics like patient rights, professional liability and data security. Ethical issues are analyzed as well.
Health care organizations and delivery systems: A detailed look at health care organizations, how to manage organizational structures and dealing with financial and regulatory issues.
Health information systems: Provides a background and overview of IT in health care, how to communicate with IT personnel and security issues.
Measuring performance standards: Covers quality improvement efforts, the role data plays in health care and development measures organizations can take to meet their regulatory and accreditation requirements.
Systems Life Cycle: Takes students through the process of choosing and putting a system in place, from planning to designing to evaluating.
Data management and design: An explanation on data’s relevance in the health care industry with a focus on databases, information systems and systems operations.
What certification will I need?
Nurse informatics specialists must be certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a nationally-recognized certification programs.
Additionally, more organizations are encouraging, and even requiring, another certification for nurse informatics specialists. The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has two levels of certification.
For newbies to the industry (five years or less of experience), passing the Certified Associate in Healthcare Information Management Systems (CAHIMS) exam demonstrates knowledge of health care IT and management.
More seasoned professionals can become certified by passing HIMSS’ Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) exam. Holding this certification shows a higher level of knowledge in the health care IT field.
What will I learn in my nursing informatics degree courses?
As an undergraduate, you’ll take core general education classes, but as you progress through the program, courses will become more specific to the nursing field you’re interested in.
Typical BSN courses include:
- Nursing practice and theory
A health care administration BS program will rely heavily on topics such as ethics, policy, economics, research methods and statistics.
How long will it take?
Depending upon your level of dedication, a nursing informatics degree can take the following time to complete:
- Associate’s degree programs, which provide entry-level opportunities, usually take two years
- A bachelor’s degree program takes four years
- Accelerated BSN programs range from 12 to 20 months
- Master’s degree programs generally require two years
Attending part-time is usually an option at most schools, but bear in mind it will take longer to complete.
Are online programs available?
There’s no shortage of online BSN, BS and MSN in health care informatics programs. You’ll just need to decide which suits your needs.
Distance learning usually requires to students complete their studies online and conduct their clinical experiences within their local community, so keep that in mind. If you’re already an RN with an associate’s degree, online RN-to-BSN programs are available at an accelerated speed. These programs are specifically geared toward working nurses and using an online classroom can make getting another degree more convenient.
Are there prerequisites?
Even though you won’t be working directly with patients on a regular basis, you’ll need to have an active registered nurse license, which can be earned with a completed undergraduate education. After getting your degree, you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become licensed as an RN.
Undergraduate programs: Colleges and universities will look for a solid high school education or GED equivalent. Enroll in science and technology classes as these will serve as a knowledge base when you take college-level courses. It can also help you stay abreast of the latest developments in both fields.
Graduate programs: A completed bachelor’s degree in nursing or health care administration and management will prepare you for a graduate level program. Many graduate schools will also want a minimum score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
What accreditation is there for my program?
Accreditation demonstrates that a program or institution meets standards set forth by a respected accrediting organization. When a school or program is accredited, students know their education should be meeting those standards, and in some cases surpassing them.
Attending an accredited nursing school opens many doors since it’s often a gateway for students to study in federally-funded and state entitlement programs. Secondly, one degree from an accredited school allows a student to pursue further education at other accredited schools. The following organizations accredit nurse informatics programs.
Main Accreditation Bodies
The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly NLNAC: Accredits the entire spectrum of nursing programs (associate’s, diploma, bachelor’s and master’s)
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): This body accredits bachelor’s and master’s nursing programs
A word on non-accredited schools: If you’re thinking of attending a non-accredited, but state board-approved school, there can be drawbacks.
While you can still take the NCLEX to earn your RN license, your nursing profession may stall out if you’re seeking additional education. Generally, education from a non-accredited school doesn’t qualify students to attend an accredited school. If you’re thinking about a career in nurse informatics where an MSN is encouraged, attending a non-accredited undergraduate school can limit your options for financial aid and if you need to transfer credits later.