Tables of Contents
- What is nursing informatics?
- What do nurse informatics specialists do?
- Different types of careers in nursing informatics
- Nursing informatics job outlook
- Nursing informatics salary: Highest-paying cities
- Nursing informatics salary: Highest-paying industries
- Leading the technology-driven future of healthcare
Improving patient outcomes and preventing patient harm are two key goals of nurse leaders and nursing professionals. The most important tool in achieving both goals is the application of data analytics techniques by nurses and nurse managers working in all areas of healthcare.
- The meaningful use requirements for certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate that healthcare providers demonstrate continuous quality improvement at the point of care and ensure interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs) and other health information.
- The CMS Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program relies on advanced statistical reporting by healthcare services to maximize their reimbursements through documentation of the quality of care they provide.
Nursing informatics professionals tie together the work of stakeholders across healthcare domains, providing these diverse fields with the data-driven insights they need to improve outcomes, reduce costs, increase safety, and promote high-quality services. Nursing informatics jobs mirror the diversity of the applications for data analytics in the healthcare field.
Regarding salary and career outlook, the range of positions available to nursing informatics professionals offers myriad opportunities for expanding into new areas of healthcare and achieving the highest levels of leadership in the nursing profession. The “technology of caring” opens new vistas for nurses seeking a career that will positively impact their patients, coworkers, organizations, and the nursing profession.
What is nursing informatics?
Nursing informatics is the practice of using technology to integrate data with nurses’ professional knowledge and other information to improve patient outcomes and facilitate communication within healthcare organizations. What nursing informatics is from the perspective of patients and caregivers emphasizes the field’s potential to improve the quality of patient care while lowering healthcare costs.
The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing emphasizes that nursing informatics is defined by the ways that healthcare providers use information technology (IT) to meet human needs rather than simply by how technology is used in the field of medicine.
- Data is uninterpreted items, or data elements, whose significance depends on their relationship with other data elements.
- Information is a combination of data elements that are organized and processed in a way that allows their significance to be interpreted.
- Knowledge formalizes the relationships between data and information to provide an understanding of how the significance of information applies to specific situations.
- Wisdom results when data, information, and knowledge are applied to support healthcare decisions that serve the needs of individual patients and their families, as well as communities.
Nursing informatics as a healthcare specialty
Nursing informatics enhances the work of nurses and other healthcare providers by gathering, analyzing, and reporting on health data that improves patient care, makes healthcare processes more efficient, and tracks the quality of patient outcomes.
- Healthcare organizations apply informatics to identify patients who are most likely to be at risk while receiving care much earlier in their hospital stay.
- The outcome-based education model serves as a framework for assessing nurse competence by validating the learner’s knowledge and performance rather than relying on credit and continuing education hours.
- A lack of informatics competencies in chief nurse executives (CNEs) impedes the ability of healthcare providers to realize the benefits of EHRs. It also prevents CNEs from transforming nurses into modern knowledge workers able to apply data to improve patient outcomes.
The informatics nursing specialty certification from the American Nurses Association (ANA) is available to registered nurses (RNs) who hold a current state license or an equivalent credential in another country. Applicants need to have:
- Earned a bachelor’s or higher-level degree in nursing or a related field
- The equivalent of at least two years of practice as a full-time RN
- Completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics nursing in the past three years
In addition, candidates for nursing informatics certification need to have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of practice in nursing informatics in the past three years, or a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice in the past three years plus 12 semester hours of credit in informatics courses as part of a graduate-level nursing program. Alternatively, candidates qualify for certification if they hold a graduate-level degree in informatics nursing that includes at least 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum in informatics nursing.
What do nurse informatics specialists do?
As with many new technologies, nursing informatics can best be explained by describing what nurse informatics specialists do. Much of the work that nursing informatics specialists do involves translating analysis of healthcare data into insight and intelligence that guide the treatment and patient care decisions of nurses and other healthcare workers. The position requires knowledge and experience using advanced data analytics tools as well as a thorough background in nursing practices and policies.
Duties and responsibilities of nursing informatics specialists
Nursing informatics professionals focus on applying healthcare data to improve patient outcomes and make the provision of healthcare services more effective. Achieving these goals entails a range of individual nursing tasks.
- Enhance nurse services by analyzing and interpreting the needs of patients, nurses, and health information processes.
- Create and deploy policies and practices that keep patient records and other healthcare information secure and confidential.
- Communicate nursing practice information to systems engineers, designers, and analysts.
- Assist in implementing healthcare information systems that support nurse administration, practice, education, and research.
- Train nurses in the use of computer systems and consult with them on an ongoing basis.
- Develop and maintain healthcare applications and systems used in clinical and administrative settings.
- Keep abreast of developments in healthcare and technology as they apply to nursing and other healthcare practices.
In the field of nursing informatics are several specialty areas that address the needs of various healthcare operations. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) provides certification and/or working groups in these five nursing informatics specialties.
As medical technology advances, the amount of biomedical and genomic data increases at a tremendous rate. Translational bioinformatics develops systems to store, analyze, and interpret this data to improve the prediction, treatment, and prevention of diseases. The goal is to integrate biological and clinical data to disseminate useful information to clinicians, researchers, and patients.
Clinical research informatics
The goal of clinical research informatics is to discover new approaches to healthcare by applying knowledge gained through clinical trials and secondary research use of clinical data. Along with translational bioinformatics, it is the area of informatics that focuses on the application of medical research results in clinical settings.
Clinical informatics is also referred to as operational informatics and applied clinical informatics; it involves the use of informatics to improve the delivery of healthcare services by nurses, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. The areas that clinical informatics address include medical decision support, analysis of visual images, clinical documentation, and provider order entry systems.
Consumer health informatics
Consumer health informatics applies nursing informatics to help patients and consumers directly through health literacy and patient education. The specialty develops frameworks for disseminating health information to consumers in an easy-to-understand format that relates to the patient’s personal health records.
Public health informatics
Among the areas of focus for public health informatics are health surveillance, emergency preparedness, disease prevention, and health promotion. The field integrates health informatics and population informatics to devise information systems that promote healthy living among groups and communities. In addition to health data, public health informatics involves studying characteristics in the environment, the quality of work and living spaces, and electronic laboratory reporting.
Resources on nursing informatics specialties
- Santeka, 6 Healthcare Informatics Specialties in Demand — The informatics specialties described in this article include pharmacy informatics, ambulatory informatics, clinical informatics, and consumer health informatics.
- Spok, “Shifting Gears: 6 Ways Clinicians Can Transition into Health IT” — Among the resources provided on this page are links to and descriptions of various nursing informatics and health IT associations.
Different types of careers in nursing informatics
Careers in nursing informatics extend to all areas of healthcare, from clinical and scientific research to management, administration, and other leadership roles. Nursing informatics professionals serve as the bridge between the growing reliance on technology in healthcare settings and the needs of clinical practitioners and other healthcare workers who lack IT skills.
Nursing informatics careers: Applying data to improve health outcomes
In the 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), 77% of nurse informaticists reported being highly satisfied with their choice of informatics career.
- The most common responsibilities that nurse informaticists had were systems implementation (44%) and utilization/optimization (41%).
- The growth in nursing informatics job opportunities was evident by the increase in the number of nurse informaticists with less than a year of experience (14%, compared with 8% in the 2017 survey).
- The position of chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO) or senior nursing informatics officer (SNIO) is more prevalent: 41% of respondents stated that their organizations have such a position.
The following are among the job titles that are available to people pursuing careers in nurse informatics:
The goal of clinical analysts is to improve their organization’s clinical practices by optimizing clinical information systems and making clinical workflows more efficient. They study organizational and IT issues, contribute to creating and implementing solutions to ineffective operations, and confirm that their organizations comply with all applicable regulations.
The position serves as a liaison between medical staff and other departments, including IT. They need to be familiar with hospital portals and systems, which typically requires a background in databases and data analytics, and they need strong organizational skills.
Informatics nurse specialist
Informatics nurse specialists combine their knowledge of nursing and IT to link the work of nurses and other healthcare workers with that of systems designers, systems engineers, and other computer professionals. They participate in the design, implementation, and maintenance of healthcare information systems and assist in educating nursing staff in the use of technology to solve the problems they encounter in clinical settings.
Director of clinical informatics
A key responsibility of the director of clinical informatics is to manage the design and implementation of a healthcare organization’s electronic medical records system. In addition to overseeing the training of staff in the use of the systems, those in the position work closely with medical professionals, healthcare administrators, and IT systems designers to ensure that the systems meet the needs of all stakeholders. A strong background in medicine, business, and technology is required.
Clinical informatics manager
Clinical informatics managers develop and coordinate informatics programs at hospitals and in other clinical settings. They ensure that nurses and other healthcare professionals have ready access to the insights gleaned from analyzing EHRs and other clinical data.
In addition to working directly with nursing staff, clinical informatics managers interact with data quality, drug safety, and other departments to implement standards for quality, safety, and accuracy. They conduct internal reviews of health information systems to identify problems and improve operational efficiency.
Resources on careers in nursing informatics
- Health Information and Management Systems Society, “Exploring Nursing Career Opportunities in the Field of Informatics” — This article contains profiles of several nursing informatics professionals examining their career paths, duties and responsibilities, and professional goals.
- American Medical Informatics Association, Nursing Informatics Resources — This page contains webinars relating to nursing informatics and profiles of nursing informatics pioneers.
- Spok.com, “Nursing Perspective: Informatics in Nursing” — This article discusses the importance of nursing informatics to the use of medical technology and the role that nursing informatics professionals play in developing the technology.
Nursing informatics job outlook
The healthcare industry’s increasing reliance on data analytics creates opportunities in nearly every area of nursing. The nursing informatics job outlook is also driven by the need for healthcare professionals with both technical and patient care experience.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places nursing informatics positions under the broader category of medical and health services managers. The BLS notes that the healthcare industry’s growing reliance on EHRs has spurred demand for nursing managers with experience and skills related to health IT and informatics.
- The number of jobs for medical and health services managers is forecast to increase by 32% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the projected employment growth for all occupations.
- A bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field is the minimum education requirement to qualify for a nursing informatics position, although many employers prefer a master’s degree in health information systems, hospital organization, or a similar field.
- The job search site Indeed notes that the skills and experience nursing informatics professionals possess qualify them for positions with medical equipment manufacturers and other industries outside of typical healthcare and medical research settings.
Nursing informatics opportunities, advancement, and professional development
Nursing Leadership explains that the ANA refers to an RN with informatics experience as an “informatics nurse,” while a person with a graduate or postgraduate degree in informatics or a related field is called an “informatics nurse specialist.” However, nursing informatics competencies have little consistency, hindering healthcare organizations from recognizing the profession.
Programs such as the Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER) initiative propose to spur adoption of nursing informatics roles, create career paths for the profession, and encourage continuing education and development of nursing informatics professionals. The goal of the TIGER program is to provide tools and resources for people interested in pursuing a career in nursing informatics to:
- Develop and implement best practices in education settings for competencies and curriculum
- Facilitate teamwork and professional relationships among the global healthcare workforce
- Customize nursing informatics competencies based on the needs of specific communities, regions, and countries
- Create a virtual learning environment featuring a resource library, webinars, and continuing education opportunities
The National League for Nursing (NLN) Foundation for Nursing Education has established the Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo Health Informatics and Innovation Collaborative Endowment Fund to explore new roles for nursing informatics professionals as information technologists and specialists in diverse healthcare settings. The goals of the program focus on three areas:
- Convert nursing informatics concepts and theories into applications and systems that promote nursing education, practice, and science.
- Establish, expand, and influence the roles that nursing informatics professionals play to increase the profession’s marketability and drive demand for nursing informatics positions.
- Apply technology to nursing education to promote high-impact practice (HIP) learning for nursing students and practicing RNs.
Resources on the nursing informatics job outlook
- Indeed, 10 Jobs for Health Informatics Professionals with Master’s Degrees — Jobs profiled in this article include pharmacy informaticist, electronic medical record keeper, health informatics consultant, and health IT project manager.
- Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, “A Review of Informatics Competencies Tools for Nurses and Nurse Managers” — This comprehensive assessment of nursing informatics competencies examines both the development of informatics competency tools and the application of the tools in healthcare settings.
Nursing informatics salary: Highest-paying cities
Figures that the BLS compiled in May 2020 indicated that the median annual salary for medical and health services managers, including nurse informaticists, was $104,280. The 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey reported that the number of nurse informaticists whose annual salary was more than $100,000 increased to 49% in 2020 from 45% in 2017 and 33% in 2014.
PayScale.com estimates the median annual salaries of five different job titles related to nursing informatics as of July 2021:
- Health informatics specialist: about $65,000
- Clinical informatics specialist: about $77,000
- Informatics nurse: about $80,000
- Nursing informatics specialist: about $85,000
- Clinical informatics manager: about $96,000
The following are among the U.S. cities where informatics nurses earn salaries higher than the national average, according to PayScale.com:
- Dallas: 49.5% more than the national average
- Louisville, Kentucky: 4.2% more
- Houston: 1.4% more
Cities where informatics nurses have salaries lower than the national average include the following:
- Pittsburgh: 11.2% lower than the national average
- Philadelphia: 9.9% lower
- Columbia, South Carolina: 2.1% lower
Salaries for clinical informatics managers are higher than the national average in these cities:
- Boston: 34.1% higher than the national average
- New York City: 10.9% higher
- Baltimore: 5.8% higher
The following cities report clinical informatics manager salaries lower than the national average:
- Grand Rapids, Michigan: 26.7% lower than the national average
- New Orleans: 7.3% lower
- Cleveland: 7% lower
Nursing informatics salary: Highest-paying industries
While the majority of nursing informatics professionals work in the healthcare industry, the interdisciplinary nature of the profession creates nursing informatics job opportunities in diverse technical and research fields, such as:
- Computer science
- Decision science
- Information science
- Management science
- Cognitive science
- Organizational theory
The profession’s close connection between nursing and IT qualifies people in the field for positions with technology firms that provide products and services to healthcare organizations, including insurance, medical equipment manufacturers, computer services, education, and government agencies. The BLS estimates the industries that are the largest employers of medical and health managers, which includes nursing informatics professionals:
- State, local, and private hospitals: 33%
- Physicians’ offices: 12%
- Nursing and residential care facilities: 10%
- Government agencies: 8%
- Outpatient care facilities: 7%
As of May 2020, the following are the median annual salaries for medical and health managers in these industries, according to the BLS:
- Government agencies: $116,380
- State, local, and private hospitals: $112,870
- Outpatient care centers: $100,690
- Physicians’ offices: $94,240
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $89,880
Leading the technology-driven future of healthcare
Nursing is increasingly an information-driven profession. While nurses have always been considered knowledge workers, having ready access to vital information is now the key to improving patient outcomes, reducing errors, and providing the most effective and efficient care possible.
Nursing informatics allows healthcare providers to offer higher-quality care to their patients and communities at greater efficiency and lower costs. The outlook for the profession and nursing informatics jobs could not be brighter.