What Is a Clinical Informatics Nurse? Exploring This Data-Driven Nursing Niche
Most people who gravitate towards the nursing profession truly want to make a positive impact in the world. They believe in care and compassion, and they believe in saving lives. Nurses traditionally do this by working in a hospital or a clinic, seeing patients, administering care and fighting against injury and disease person by person.
Some nurses look around at the healthcare system and see barriers in the workflow and ways providers, hospitals, clinics and more could better serve their patients. These nurses look at the big picture of patient outcomes and think: There must be a better way to do this.
Many advanced-level nursing roles involve management or administration. Nursing informatics is all about driving innovation via technology. In the same way that business or tech companies push themselves toward more data-driven insights and decisions, healthcare is also working to utilize data and technology to improve.
Clinical informatics nurses stand on the threshold of healthcare experience and technological expertise. This cross-disciplinary role allows clinical informatics nurses to make impacts that can ripple through an entire healthcare system. With the current state of healthcare, one thing is clear—we need professionals like clinical informatics nurses to help create meaningful advancements.
What is clinical informatics in nursing?
The key word to understanding this field is data. Information has never been as abundant in healthcare as it is today. With current technology, we can record and track massive amounts of patient data—as well as what providers are doing, what tools they use and what systems and workflows each facility has. All that data holds potential revelations that could save many lives going forward, but it requires professionals who know how to make use of that information.
Clinical informatics is the field of utilizing technology and data to discover trends and create improvements to healthcare in a clinical setting. For nursing, clinical informatics covers a huge swath of health topics.
The clinical information that nurse informaticists gather allows data science, machine learning and AI techniques to be used to identify trends and drive efficiencies.
Clinical informatics in nursing also includes analysis and innovation in how nurses learn, teach and provide care, along with larger health system concerns like EHR (electronic health records) systems, patient safety, and really, any implementation of technology that can improve patient outcomes and experiences in the healthcare environment.
Informatics offers fascinating career pathways, and it has the power to make significant changes in healthcare as we know it.
What does a clinical informatics nurse do?
Clinical informatics nurses, also called just informatics nurses, analyze nursing technology applications. They often work on EHR systems and patient classification systems as well as assessment and workflow tools. They use their practical knowledge of how nurses and healthcare professionals operate and apply it to these technical systems—think of it as being a subject matter expert who helps bridge the gap between IT teams and the healthcare providers using these systems.
Their work can include making sure information is standardized between platforms, looking for gaps or problems in workflow, enhancing each technology and sometimes assisting with the creation of new tools if needed.
Really, nursing informatics is a perfect career for people who have experience in nursing but also love technology. That particular blend of interest and expertise can create professionals who adapt and develop nursing-specific technology like no one else could.
This field usually involves lots of collaboration with other teams, such as nursing administration, healthcare system staff, pharmacists and any prospective users of the various technologies. But clinical informatics is more of a subject area than a specific job title. There are quite a few different types of clinical informatics nursing jobs out there. For more details on that, check out Nursing Informatics Jobs: What Nurses Should Know.
Where do clinical informatics nurses work?
Employers for this position are usually hospitals or healthcare systems. The HIMSS® 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey reports that the majority of nurse informaticists they surveyed (68% of 1,359 respondents) work in a hospital or multi-facility health system.1 Interestingly, most of these nurse informaticists said their employer was a magnet-designated hospital as well. It’s easy to see why hospitals on the cutting edge of care might particularly value this role.
How to become a clinical informatics nurse
It’s probably not a surprise, but you must first become a nurse to work in a clinical informatics nursing role. For most positions (with some variation based on state and employer), you must be a registered nurse (RN). Some positions may require a few years of clinical experience as well—and even if not required, it’s certainly recommended.
If you have these qualifications on your resume, you’ll also want to consider completing a graduate program that offers informatics as a nursing specialty. While there’s no mandated requirement for nurses working in informatics to have advanced degrees, many clinical informatics employers are looking for advanced education in their applicants. In fact, 66 percent of nurse informaticists who responded to the HIMSS 2020 Workforce survey held master’s degrees or higher.1
Enhance the impact of your work in nursing
If you are interested in effecting large-system quality and change through technology, nursing informatics could be the perfect pursuit for you. These advanced nursing positions are an essential part of healthcare’s future—and you could have a hand in shaping it.
If this role sounds like it could be the right fit for you, check out the Rasmussen University Master of Science in Nursing degree page to learn more about the Healthcare Technology, Simulation and Informatics specialization and how it can help prepare you for an informatics career.
1“2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey,” Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), May 2020. [Accessed June 2022], https://www.himss.org/resources/himss-nursing-informatics-workforce-survey.
HIMSS is a registered trademark of Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc.