Nursing Informatics Career and Degree Guide


What’s It Like to Work as a Nurse Informaticist?

While you won’t be directly interacting with patients as a nurse informaticist, you’ll help improve their outcomes in many other ways.

nurse looking at information on tablet
nurse looking at information on tablet

You probably already know that a career in nursing can take you way beyond the hospital bedside. Your nursing passion can translate into a variety of job roles, both patient-facing and beyond the bedside.

One popular, behind-the-scenes role? Nursing informatics. As a nurse informaticist, you’ll analyze data to improve patient care and help your healthcare facility implement new patient care technology. Unlike the one-on-one care of a traditional nursing role, you’ll advocate for patients by taking steps to improve outcomes and safety in your entire unit, facility, or even healthcare system.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a non-profit association that advocates for improvements in healthcare using technology, describes nurse informaticists as the driving force behind the development, implementation, and optimization of electronic medical and health records, nursing clinical documentation, point-of-care clinical decision support, and computerized practitioner order entry.

Day-to-Day Roles and Responsibilities

Nursing informatics is a high-level technical role. You’ll use data and technology every day to monitor systems, programs, and patient care initiatives. You’ll analyze data to see what’s working and what isn’t. You’ll use your findings to suggest improvements, lead projects, and implement change.

You’ll also research, develop, and implement new technology. You’ll train nursing staff to use the technology, answer their questions, and then monitor the results. You’ll get feedback from the nursing staff and use data to measure whether the technology has improved patient outcomes.

“Common daily tasks may include supporting and training the nursing staff, managing projects, analyzing and optimizing system performance, managing the resources, and developing system-related policies and procedures,” explains Debra Henline Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI, a nurse educator who teaches nursing informatics to post-graduate students.

A 2020 (HIMSS) workforce survey that asked informatics nurses about their most common job duties backs this up. According to 44% of the responses, systems implementation is the most common job duty. What is systems implementation? Generally, it’s selecting and preparing new technology and then training and supporting nursing staff on how to use it.

Other job tasks that nursing informaticists reported to HIMSS include:

  • System optimization and utilization
  • System development
  • Project management
  • Quality initiative planning and reporting
  • Education of others on informatics

Jobs You Can Hold as a Nurse Informaticist

There are a few job titles you might see under the umbrella of informatics nursing. While your general job will be similar no matter your title, there are some duties that are different.

Job Title: Nursing Informatics Specialist


What you’ll do

  • Implement and assess informatics systems.
  • Train nursing and other healthcare staff on new systems.
  • Act as a bridge between nursing and IT departments.

Where you’ll work

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare systems

What else you should know

This is the most common job title for nursing informaticists, according to the 2020 HIMSS survey.

Job Title: Clinical Analyst


What you’ll do

  • Install and manage computer systems and networks.
  • Assess how the systems perform and ensure staff understands how to use them.
  • Educate staff and answer any questions.

Where you’ll work

  • Hospitals
  • Medical offices

What else you should know

You’ll need great communication skills as well as technical skills for this role.

Job Title: Director/Manager of Clinical Informatics


What you’ll do

  • Lead a team or department and oversee the implementation of computer-based healthcare tools.
  • Analyze data to ensure systems are delivering the best possible outcomes.
  • Provide training and other guidance to staff.

Where you’ll work

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare systems

What else you should know

You might have a staff that reports to you in this role, meaning you’ll need communication and leadership skills to be successful.

Job Title: Chief Nursing Informatics Officer


What you’ll do

  • Lead a nursing informatics department.
  • Plan, develop, and oversee computer-based healthcare delivery systems.
  • Manage project implementation with a nursing focus.

Where you’ll work

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare systems

What else you should know

You’ll need at least a master’s in nursing informatics to hold this job, and many employers will look for a doctorate. Most employers will also ask that you have a certification in the field.

Job Title: Informatics Consultant


What you’ll do

  • Advise companies on healthcare technology that can help them achieve better patient outcomes.
  • Help companies implement the technology and educate staff.

Where you’ll work

  • Medical offices
  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare facilities

What else you should know

A consultant is an expert who is called in to help a company solve a problem. As an informatics consultant, you’ll help healthcare facilities discover technology that can help them deliver better patient care. This role allows you to have a lot of independence and work in many locations.

Job Title: Clinical Applications Specialist


What you’ll do

  • Train nursing and other healthcare staff on new technology.
  • Guide teams on how to use technology and answer questions.

Where you’ll work

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare systems
  • Healthcare technology companies

What else you should know

Informatics nurses who work as clinical applications specialists might work for healthcare technology companies. They’ll then travel to different hospitals and facilities to train nursing staff on their company’s products. This can be a great role if you’d rather not work in the same place every day.

Job Title: Nurse Educator/Instructor


What you’ll do

  • Educate aspiring informatics nurses on how technology can improve patient care outcomes.

Where you’ll work

  • Colleges and universities

What else you should know

This is another role that will require an advanced degree—at least an MSN. You might also need experience in the field.

Nurse Informaticists: Not Your Typical Nursing Job

A job as an informatics nurse might not be what many people think of when they think of nursing. In fact, your job duties will look quite different than a typical nursing role. Some things to know:

You aren’t likely to provide hands-on patient care.

According to the HIMSS survey, more than 70% of nurse informatics don’t provide clinical care.

You might be able to work from home.

About 45% of informatics nurses work remotely, according to the HIMSS survey.

You probably won’t have anyone reporting to you.

The HIMSS survey found that 68% of nurse informaticists have no reports.

You might not report to the nursing department.

About 49% of nurse informaticists report to IT departments and another 28% report to administration. Only 40% of nurse informaticists surveyed by HIMSS reported to a nursing department.

“Nursing informatics involves working more with healthcare software and hardware, analyzing information to improve nursing services, and testing or even creating new information solutions such as communication tools or digital health records,” Sullivan says. “In other words, nursing informatics involves more IT, while traditional nursing focuses more on direct care of the patients.”

What Education Do I Need?

Nursing informatics is an advanced role, so you’ll need advanced training or an advanced degree to work in the field. While it’s possible to obtain a nursing informatics role with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and some on-the-job training or certification, most jobs will ask that you have at least a bachelor’s degree.

As the field of nursing informatics grows, master’s level degrees are becoming increasingly common and required by employers. Doctoral degrees are also available and might be a great idea if you’re looking for a leadership role.

According to the HIMSS survey, most nurse informaticists who responded, 66%, hold a master’s degree. This includes nurses with a BSN and a master’s degree in technology or information-related areas, nurses with an MSN, and nurses with an MSN in nursing informatics. So, although you might be able to find entry-level nursing informatics roles with an ADN, it might be a good idea to earn a higher degree when you can. Not only will it help you advance your skills, but it can also help you stand out among other job applications.

What Can I Make in This Field?

The salary of a nurse informaticist depends greatly on your level of education and the type of job you do. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t track salary data for nurse informaticists specifically. However, it does classify them under the larger category of “all other health information technologists, medical registrars, surgical assistants, and healthcare practitioners and technical workers.”

The BLS reports that the average salary in this category is $58,60. It also reports that the top 10% of earners in the category make an average of $103,430. While there isn’t data tracked for nursing informaticists specifically, data from the HIMSS survey suggests that nurse informaticists’ salaries are among the top salaries in the broad category.

Is a Job as a Nurse Informaticist for Me?

Nursing informatics is a great career for nurses who also have an interest in technology and the data crunching that usually comes along with it.

“To be a good fit for a nurse informaticist role, strong communication and analytic skills are a must,” says Sullivan. “It’s also important to have the ability to solve problems and adapt to clinical challenges. A huge advantage is knowledge in the field of computer programming.”

So, if you’re someone who enjoys coming up with innovative solutions to problems using data and technology, a nurse informaticist role might be ideal for you. You might really enjoy career informatics if you thrive on the challenge of finding solutions.

Other traits and skills that can come in handy include:

Leadership

Communication

Empathy

Adaptability

“It’s a demanding and sometimes challenging career, but it gives you a lot of space to grow,” Sullivan says.

If that sounds ideal to you, right now is a great time to join this exciting field. You’ll be joining a growing field, and you’ll have the opportunity to make lasting change in the hospital or health system where you work.


Written and reported by:

Stephanie Behring

Contributing Writer

debra sullivan

With professional insight from:

Debra Henline Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, RN, CNE, COI

Nursing Informatics Instructor


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