Informatics nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work at the intersection of technology and nursing. Nursing informatics is a specialty of nursing that combines knowledge of nursing, communications, computer science, and information science. Nurses who work in this field use their clinical backgrounds as well as their computer and organizational skills. They analyze and develop the health systems that nurses in the clinical setting use.
Among other things, a nurse informaticist can:
- Help software developers build high-quality health systems that process patient data and help nurses achieve high-quality health outcomes
- Analyze existing health systems to find ways they can be improved
- Write new computer programs themselves that clinicians in the field can use to help with decision making
Nursing informaticists typically need at least a BSN degree, but a master’s degree is preferred, and some go on to earn their doctorate.
The International Medical Informatics Association, a special interest group on nursing informatics, says nursing informaticists integrate the practice of nursing into health systems to “promote the health of people, families, and communities worldwide.”
According to the 2020 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, a few interesting statistics about nursing informatics include,
- 20% of nurse informaticists have more than 20 years of clinical experience, compared with 30% in 2011.
- 63% stated they earn a base annual salary between $61,000 and $115,000.
- 66% increase in individuals with a master’s degree
- Certification took a significant jump from 49% in 2017 to 58% in 2020.
- Nursing informaticists with a higher level of formal education have higher salaries
- Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents work for a hospital or multi-facility health system.
With the ever-changing technological advancements in all facets of healthcare, nursing informatics is an exciting field. This guide will explain the informatics profession and how it directly impacts health outcomes. We will also discuss how nurses can join this growing profession.
Nursing Informatics Careers
There are many careers available for nursing informaticists. Some of the job titles they may hold are:
- Chief Information Officers
- Chief Nursing Officer
- Clinical Analyst
- Clinical Informatics Nurses
- Clinical Specialist
- Health Informatics Officer
- Informatics Nurse
- Nursing Informatics Specialists
Why Do We Need Informatics Nurses?
Nursing informaticists improve health systems which can improve health outcomes for patients.
These nurses work to develop communications and information technologies systems while also serving as educators, specialists, researchers, and software engineers.
Now is a great time to become an informatics nurse because of the growing emphasis on controlling health care costs. Nursing informatics can help rein in health care costs at hospitals and other medical facilities.
What Does an Informatics Nurse Do?
Though the exact job description of an Informatics Nurse will vary by workplace, the American Medical Informatics Association reported that the core responsibilities of a Nurse Informatics Specialist include the following:
- Advancing public health through influencing health care policy.
- Contributing to the construction of an interoperable national data infrastructure.
- Encouraging evidence-based best practices, education, and research efforts.
- Improving interpersonal workflow through communication and information technologies.
- Managing and creating a vision for communication and information technology development, design, and implementation.
- Using methods of information retrieval and presentation to improve patient safety.
Other responsibilities may include:
- Developing information systems based on current evidence-based standards of care and ensuring systems remain updated.
- Educating staff on changes to electronic health records.
- Managing the transition from paper charting to electronic medical charting.
- Working with policymakers and government agencies to ensure laws and regulations support healthcare technology and are compatible with the provider and patient technology needs.
Skills Needed for a Career in Nursing Informatics
- Computer programming
- Critical thinking & problem-solving
- Interpersonal skills like empathy and conflict resolution
- Knowledge of health data systems
- Project management
Nursing Informatics Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a registered nurse in 2020 is $75,330 per year or $36.22 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary. Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between different nursing specialties.
Reported informatics nurse salaries vary widely across different platforms. Glassdoor.com reports an average salary of $72,300 per year for informatics RNs. Payscale.com reports an average annual salary of $79,885 or $34.68/hr.
However, the HIMSS 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce survey, found that 49% of respondents earn base salaries of more than $100,000 each year. This is up from 45% in 2017 and 33% in 2014.
Highest Paying States for Informatics Nurses
Currently, the states that pay the highest salaries for Informatics Nurses according to Payscale.com are as follows:
- Portland, Oregon – $83,988
- Louisville, Kentucky – $83,636
- Baltimore, Maryland – $79,116
- Columbia, South Carolina – $78,611
How to Increase Your Salary as an Informatics Nurse
Informatics RNs can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience. Based on reported salaries, the following years of service can earn,
- Less than 1 year of experience earn an average annual salary of $69,853
- 1-4 years of experience earn an average annual salary of $76,068
- 5-9 years of experience earns an average annual salary of $82,841
- 10-19 years of experience earns an average annual salary of $91,347
As with all jobs in the nursing field, earning potential increases with additional education and experience. In many health systems, nurses get raises during annual employee performance reviews.
The nursing informatics certification can give nurses an additional bump in their paycheck after completion. In fact, some jobs will require this certification within a specific number of years of starting a position.
How Do You Become an Informatics Nurse?
To become an informatics nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
1. Attend Nursing School
You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to become a registered nurse. Most informatics nurses will need a bachelor’s degree at minimum, but an MSN is preferred.
So, ADN-prepared nurses will need to complete an additional step of either completing their BSN degree or entering into an accelerated RN to MSN program which will let them earn their BSN and MSN at the same time.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN
Become a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.
3. Gain Experience at the Bedside
Bedside experience is essential for informatics nurses because it allows them to understand the equipment and its uses within the organization. Furthermore, it will help the nurse become familiar with the electronic medical record system and the processes.
4. Earn Your Certification
Offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the RN-BC certification is ideal for nurses looking for advanced certification.
The certification is valid for five years and nurses must meet specific requirements in order to be eligible to sit for the exam. According to the ANCC, these requirements include,
Hold a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States or hold the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country.
- Hold a bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.
- Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as a registered nurse.
- Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics nursing within the last 3 years.
- Meet one of the following practice hour requirements:
- Have practiced a minimum of 2,000 hours in informatics nursing within the last 3 years; or
- Have practiced a minimum of 1,000 hours in informatics nursing in the last 3 years and completed a minimum of 12 semester hours of academic credit in informatics courses that are part of a graduate-level informatics nursing program; or
- Have completed a graduate program in informatics nursing containing a minimum of 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum in informatics nursing.
5. Advance Your Education
While some employers will hire tech-savvy BSN-prepared nurses for informaticist jobs, there is an increasing demand for nurse informaticists to have a master’s degree in health informatics or a related field. And some will advance their education further by earning a doctoral degree.
For a nurse serious about an informatics career move, a master of science in nursing degree is likely a wise degree to pursue.
Informatics nurses with graduate degrees can easily become nurse administrators or nurse educators. Some who focus on information technology become chief information officers or information technology nursing advocates in their respective organizations.
Regardless of how they advance along a career ladder, informatics nurses are the bridge between the clinical universe and the informational technology sphere.
Where Do Informatics Nurses Work?
Informatics nurses can work in a variety of areas. Typically they will work for healthcare organizations or technology companies. However, as the role of the informatics nurse expands — so does the available work locations.
Some of the places informatics nurses can work include:
- Academic Setting
- Ambulatory Care Centers
- Consulting firm
- Counseling centers
- Electronic Medical Record Company
- Government or military
- Healthcare product companies
- Hospital or health system
- International organizations
- Private contractor
- Research facilities
- Schools and/or universities
- Technology Company
- Urgent Care Clinics
Opportunities for jobs in nursing informatics are exploding, thanks to the use of electronic medical records and the general growth of information technology. The Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses reports that as many as 70,000 health informatics specialists will be required within the next few years.
What is the Career Outlook for Nursing Informaticists?
According to the BLS, in 2020, there were 3,080,100 registered nurses in the United States. By 2030, there will be a need for additional 276,800 nurses, which is an expected growth of 9%. With the aging population, nurse burnout, and the increasing number of nurses leaving the bedside, this number is expected to be even higher.
A 2014 report by Burning Glass projected that demand for health informatics professionals will grow at twice the rate of the overall workforce, creating more opportunities for professionals who want to work in this facet of health care.
Since the implementation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) in 2009 and the Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act (PPACA) in 2008, there has been an increased need for technology-based nurses.
The American Medical Informatics Association estimated an increased need for 70,000 nursing informatics positions due to the ongoing technological advancements and requirements regarding healthcare.
Nursing Informatics and the Future
Nursing informatics incorporates knowledge of multiple disciplines. It offers the opportunity to have an impact on patients, the public, and healthcare professionals. Candidates who have a mix of nursing, information technology, communication, and organizational skills are in high demand for jobs in this field.
There’s no doubt informatics is here to stay. Nurses who love computers, information systems, and data management would be smart to plug into this specialty and leverage those skills and experiences for an exciting and well-paying nursing career path.