“Nursing informatics (NI) is the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice.”
While that is a good formal definition, you might still be scratching your head. ONS Voice arguably explains the concept of nurse informatics better:
“Nurse informaticists facilitate communication between clinical and IT staff. They speak two languages—technology and health care—and focus specifically on developing strategies for health IT procurement, implementation, maintenance, and optimization in collaboration with other clinical and operational leaders.”
To be clear, nurse informaticists are not simply informaticists who work with nurses. They are trained nurses themselves, specializing in the technology aspect of healthcare.
While some students set out to become nurse informaticists from the get-go, for many professionals, this is not a starting career.
They may already be working as nurses, and getting fatigued with issues involving documentation, data, and electronic communication.
Seeing the need for more efficient technologies and work flow, they decide to enter the field of nurse informaticists to help correct the issues they have already experienced firsthand.
What Do Nurse Informaticists Do?
Cathy Menkiena, MBA, BSN, RN-BC, describes the responsibilities of nurse informaticists in this article in-depth. In her post, she identifies three key responsibilities.
The first is for nurse informaticists to explain why a new process is required. Without other staff understanding, they may not adopt it or use it correctly. But when they do understand the value of new processes, they are more willing to take responsibility for participating themselves.
The second key responsibility she identifies is the implementation of those new processes and technologies. She points out that nurse informaticists need to provide the training and resources other healthcare professionals need to effectively embrace the new tools being introduced to the workplace.
Finally, the third key responsibility Menkiena highlights is validating data with what she calls the “three Vs.” These include volume, velocity and variety. To fully understand this and the other key responsibilities, we suggest reading the post in full.
Is a Career in Nurse Informatics Right for You?
You may be reading this as someone who has no healthcare experience, but wants to enter the field. Or, you might already be a nurse or another kind of healthcare practitioner who is getting fed up with technological issues holding back your workplace.
Either way, you may thrive in a nurse informatics career if:
Are skilled in technology (or willing to train up those skills)
Want to work in a clinical setting
Are good at project management
Do well “bridging gaps” between disciplines (and staff)
Have a strong grasp for how to maximize efficiency and streamline work flows
Are a great communicator
Possess leadership skills
Are an excellent problem-solver
Have a passion for advocacy
The work you do can improve access to care, reduce errors, and improve quality of life and services for healthcare providers and their patients.
Are Nurse Informaticists in Demand?
To get a feel for demand in this field, we can take a look at Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for both nurses and health informatics workers.
Nurses: On this page, the BLS reports that the career of registered nurse is growing at a projected rate of 12%, and that licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses are seeing an 11% growth rate in employment. That is over the period of time spanning 2018 through 2028.
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians (includes health informatics workers): The BLS also reports a growth rate ranging between 8% and 11% for different specialties within this umbrella between 2020 and 2030.
So, all told, we are looking at a growth rate of around 11% in this field, based on the crossover we see above.
Nurse Informatics Salary Information
Your next question is probably, “How much can I earn as a nurse informaticist?”
To answer this question, we can turn to the University of Cincinnati. According to the university, the average annual salary range for a nurse informaticist is $58,049 – $98,831.
The University of San Diego also offers an estimate of the annual salary for an informatics nurse: $115,000. The university’s source for this number is the HIMSS 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey.
For reference, HIMSS is the Health Information and Management Systems Society.
So, you can earn a competitive salary if you go into nurse informatics, especially as you gain experience in the field.
Your salary also may depend on the type of facility where you work as well as your location. If you live in an area where cost of living is higher, you probably will also earn more.
Here is what health informatics workers are earning by state in 2022 according to ZipRecruiter:
As you can see, even in the lowest-paying states, people in health informatics can earn good money.
How Do You Start a Career in Nurse Informatics?
Now you know what you can expect in terms of demand and pay for nursing informatics jobs & careers. But how do you enter the field?
ONS Voice says, “Any licensed RN can become an informaticist by earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as health information technology or healthcare informatics. However, 66% of respondents for the 2020 HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey reported that they had a master’s-level degree, which is especially important if you intend to advance to informatics leadership roles.”
So, here are the basic steps to becoming a nursing informaticist:
1. Attend nursing school and become a nurse.
You probably noticed ONS Voice specifically said that any licensed RN can become a nursing informaticist after earning a bachelor’s degree.
But we have seen references to LVNs and LPNs becoming nurse informaticists as well. So, while RN may be preferred, you should be able to break into the field as a different type of nurse as well.
2. Consider earning a relevant bachelor’s degree.
ONS Voice suggested “earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as health information technology or healthcare informatics.”
But this is not necessarily a requirement of the field.
HIMSS says here that you need “a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), at minimum.”
So, if you already earned a bachelor’s degree when you became a nurse, you might be able to go straight into nursing informatics without returning to school for a secondary bachelor’s degree.
3. Think about pursuing your master’s degree and certifications.
HIMSS also echoes what ONS Voice said about master’s degrees, stating that “a master’s degree and certifications, particularly for executive roles (chief nursing informatics officer)” may be valuable.
So, you might want to enter this field with a bachelor’s degree, and then return to school to earn your master’s degree when you are ready to take your career to the next level.
Looking for examples of nursing informatics certifications?
Here is a certification offered by ANA. It is called the “Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC®).”
This one is actually aimed at RNs who are looking to demonstrate entry-level knowledge. So, certifications can be useful whether you are applying for an executive role or a starting level position.
Keep in mind that unlike degrees, certifications can expire. This one, for instance, expires after five years.
So, you will need to keep up with renewals. In this case, that just means ensuring that your license is current and that you are fulfilling all other requirements to renew.
Take the Next Steps
Excited about pursuing a career in nursing informatics or other health informatics? You can continue exploring our site to learn more about health informatics, clinical information systems, and more. You also can start checking into schools that offer nursing informatics programs to begin your academic journey.