What Is a Nursing Informatics Specialist?

Registered nurses who work with information technology to manage medical data and systems are known as nursing informatics specialists. Learn about the job duties of these nurses, and discover the education, certification and licensing you'd need to become one. Review the salary potential for nursing informatics specialists. Schools offering Computer Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Nursing Informatics Specialist Do?

A nursing informatics specialist uses a combination of nursing knowledge and expertise in computers to manage the information systems used by nurses in hospitals, medical offices and clinics. They collect and analyze data, plan and test the design of information systems, oversee their implementation and train nurses and administrators in their use. This includes patient data, health insurance information, and nursing information. In this role, your objectives would include improving treatment and drug administration regimens, record keeping practices, workflow procedures and medical decision-making practices. Nursing informatics specialists need to understand how to use and design database, spreadsheet, computer training, and medical software.

The chart below contains important information about working in nursing informatics fields.

Degree Required BSN; Master's programs available
Education Field of Study Nursing; health informatics graduate programs available
Certification RN licensure; HIMSS and ANCC certification available
Job Growth (2018-2028) 9%* (for all Computer Systems Analysts)
Median Salary (2018) $88,740* (for all Computer Systems Analysts)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Education Would I Need?

For a specialist career in nursing informatics, you'll need to have already completed nursing training and be a registered nurse. A majority of respondents to the 2011 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) revealed that they had no formal training or education in informatics (www.himss.org). However, graduate-level certificate programs in health informatics and master's degree programs in nursing informatics are available if you do want formal training. You can expect to complete a certificate program in a year or a master's degree program in two years.

A health informatics certificate examines ways of using medical information and information technology to develop better health information systems. Your training may cover the application of health information in medical research, public health, clinical care and pharmacy services. Course topics might include healthcare project management, bioinformatics and data mining.

Master's degree programs in nursing informatics synthesize concepts from computer science, information science and nursing as well as exploring their application in the provision of healthcare, nursing research and patient education. You'll learn to analyze data, assess the efficacy of medical information systems and design or refine a system. Programs assign you to at least one clinical rotation in informatics. Course subjects might include advanced nursing practice, Web-based information systems and network maintenance. Some programs are available online.

What Certification is Available?

You can gain certification in nursing informatics from HIMSS and from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The ANCC certification exam is computer-based and thus accessible year-round. To be eligible for this exam, you must hold an RN license, a bachelor's degree, two years of full-time nursing experience and 30 hours of informatics continuing education. Additionally, you'll need to have completed a designated number of hours or informatics nursing and collegiate-level informatics coursework or a combination of the two.

HIMSS offers the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) certification. To be eligible, you must have a bachelor's degree and five years of information management experience or a graduate degree and three years of information management experience. For bachelor's degree holders, three of the five years must be healthcare-related. For graduate degree holders, two of the three years must be healthcare-related. The exam consists of 115 multiple-choice questions. CPHIMS certification is valid for three years, after which you need to renew it.

Where Do Professionals Work?

Your leading employment options are hospitals, insurers and other healthcare services firms, as well as postsecondary schools, consulting firms, government agencies and ambulatory care providers. The HIMSS survey shows that hospitals are the largest employer. According to O*Net Online (www.onetonline.org), approximately 634,000 informatics nurse specialists were employed as of 2018. Employment is projected to grow by 7% to 10% from 2018-2028. Demand for nurse informatics specialists will be driven by increased adoption of information technology in medical care.

What Salary Could I Earn?

O*Net Online showed that the median salary of nursing informatics specialists was $88,740 in 2018. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have data specifically for nursing informatics specialists, a comparable occupation, medical records and health information technicians, are listed on BLS with a median wage of $40,350. By state, the BLS claims that the best salaries for these technicians were in New Jersey and District of Columbia, which had the highest mean wages at $54,020 and $53,430, respectively.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar kinds of computer skills that nursing informatics specialists use are also used by computer and information systems managers, computer systems and information security analysts, and systems software developers and software quality engineers and testers. Most people in these fields possess at least a bachelor's degree expect for computer systems analysts where the majority possess at least an associate's degree.

Additional careers more closely related to healthcare are medical and health service managers, and medical transcriptionists, both of which require a background in medical terminology along with computer-technical skills. A medical and health service manager typically possesses at least a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions, while a medical transcriptionist can gain entry into the field by completing a 1-year certificate program.

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