Job Profile: Nursing Informatics

Since the federal government mandated that all healthcare providers transition to electronic medical records, the emerging nursing informatics specialty has entered the spotlight. At the intersection of healthcare and technology, nursing informatics is a unique niche that focuses on the collection, integration, and security of crucial patient data. Nursing informatics uses science to control how data is communicated through hospitals, clinics, physician offices, outpatient centers, pharmaceutical companies, and all other medical facilities. Informaticists are highly trained to organize innovative IT systems for keeping medical information easily accessible for doctors, nurses, and specialists. Informatics nurses play a vital role in overseeing electronic health records so that physicians can improve patient care.

Salary

According to the 2014 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, the average yearly salary for nursing informaticists in the United States is $100,717. Nursing informatics specialists working in hospitals earn slightly less at $96,754, but the highest paid are employed by consulting firms with an average mean wage of $141,432. Informaticists working in the Pacific Northwest earn make the most money regionally with a median salary of $117,629 annually.

Beginning Salary

When just starting out in nursing informatics, you’ll likely land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with a yearly salary below $86,443. New informatics nurses with a post-graduate degree have the highest salary potential at $107,215. Also, experienced nursing informaticists who advance into supervisory roles often report bringing home more than $142,733 annually.

Key Responsibilities

Nursing informaticists are held responsible for developing well-functioning information systems that will optimize patient data flow in their clinical setting. Informatics nurses manage the design, development, and implementation of technology to build an interoperable data infrastructure that keeps healthcare organizations running smoothly. Typical daily duties can involve evaluating health information technology tools, interpreting patient data, implementing new informatics solutions, improving human-computer interactions, developing confidentiality policies, modifying database operations, configuring software, and troubleshooting system errors. Some nursing informaticists are also responsible for conducting research to present new information retrieval and storage approaches.

Necessary Skills

Before leaping into a nursing informatics career, you’ll need to sharpen your technical skills with extensive computer science and information technology knowledge. Nursing informaticists must be equipped with the analytical ability to evaluate patient databases and find improvements. Communication skills are essential for informatics nurses to collaborate with physicians and train other nurses on new electronic health records systems. Having good problem-solving and quick critical thinking skills will be helpful whenever technology errors occur. Nursing informaticists need to have the project management skills for resolving conflicting demands and developing IT solutions that suit everyone’s needs. Creativity is also necessary for informatics nurses to innovatively design patient-centered systems.

Degree and Education Requirements

All nursing informatics jobs will require that candidates possess at least a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing school. That being said, many nursing informaticists are educated at the graduate level with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). It’s best that aspiring informatics nurses select an MSN program that provides specialization areas in informatics or health informatics. Some registered nurses go a different route by earning a master’s degree in computer science or information technology. Either way, make certain that you’re taking courses related to IT security, data management, healthcare law, medical ethics, electronic health records, and quality improvement.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Becoming a nursing informaticist will come with its fair share of rewards and challenges. On the positive side, nursing informatics is an emerging discipline where nurses have the ability to significantly improve the delivery of healthcare away from the bedside. Nursing informaticists typically make higher salaries than most registered nurses and even some advanced practice nurses. Nursing informatics offers a wide variety of administrative duties, so boredom can’t set in. Above average job growth will also make finding nursing informatics openings a breeze. However, informatics nurses typically need to invest in six to eight years of post-secondary schooling. It can take years for RNs to become licensed, gain experience, and move into informatics. Informatics allows for little to no direct patient contact. Nursing informaticists need to have extensive knowledge of computer systems. Maintaining specialty certification every few years is also common.

Getting Started

After earning a BSN, the first step you’ll need to take is passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) for state licensing. It’s then time to start building an impressive resume with plenty of clinical experience as a registered nurse. Working as an entry-level staff nurse while taking continuing education in informatics is best. Most nursing informaticists have at least three years of RN experience. Next, you should consider enrolling in graduate school and specializing in nursing informatics. Advanced training will qualify you for pursuing certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). For the Board Certified Informatics Nursing credential, you’ll need to have at least 1,000 practice hours in informatics over the last three years. Becoming a Certified Professional in Healthcare Information Management Systems (CPHIMS) through the HIMSS could also be beneficial.

Future Outlook

Technological applications are advancing at the speed of light, so the demand for informatics nurses will only climb as the digital age continues. In the last five years, the United States has witnessed a nearly 70 percent increase in the use of electronic health records. It’s no surprise that the growth of nursing informatics is outpacing supply. Like several other areas of nursing, there’s a critical shortage of informatics specialists to optimize the use of healthcare IT systems. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nurses will continue rapidly growing by 19 percent through 2022. Nursing informaticists will likely find the most favorable job prospects in outpatient care centers, ambulatory facilities, medical group practices, and long-term rehabilitative clinics.

Overall, nursing informatics is an exciting specialty for healthcare professionals wishing to use their clinical and technical expertise to implement effective medical IT solutions. Nursing informaticists apply computer science concepts to develop data structures for delivering critical patient data directly to healthcare providers. These specialized nurses leave a lasting mark on improving patient outcomes through the latest cutting-edge technology. If you make the decision to work in the nursing informatics field, you’ll have a financially and intrinsically rewarding career maximizing the efficiency of clinical communications.

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