What Is Nursing Informatics? The Intersection of Science and Technology
By Ashley Brooks on 05/11/2020
You’re familiar with all sorts of nursing jargon, from “coding” to “stat.” But recently you’ve heard of an unfamiliar term buzzing through the halls of healthcare facilities around the country: nursing informatics. You only have a vague idea about the nursing informatics definition—and that won’t cut it when you’re a nurse working in the healthcare field.
So, what is nursing informatics? You may not know much about this nursing specialty, but it’s been around since the 1980s. It was originally defined as “the application of IT in nursing duties including education, management and practice,” though quite a bit has been added to the job description since then as healthcare technology continues to expand.1
These days, a nursing informatics career is a blend of nursing, IT and data analysis. Though these nurses typically don’t work directly with patients as often as other nurses, the work they undertake leaves a lasting impact on the healthcare industry.
Though the nursing informatics definition can seem confusing at first, there’s no need to worry! We’re breaking down nursing informatics into easy-to-understand terms. Read on to get the scoop on this tech-driven nursing career. Maybe you’ll even discover that it’s right up your alley.
What is nursing informatics?
Nursing informatics blends the medical knowledge of nursing with the communication and technology of the IT world. Nurse informatics use these combined skillsets to “promote the health of people, families and communities worldwide,” according to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).2
These days, nurse informatics specialists work to improve the healthcare field on a broad scale, often with a focus on patient care and better clinical workflows for medical professionals. They serve as the bridge between end users (clinicians) and the people who create new healthcare technology—while always keeping a view of patient safety in mind. Research and data play a big part in this job, as nurse informaticists use evidence-based information to improve the healthcare system for both patients and providers.
A survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) shows that most nurse informaticists are quite happy with their careers, with 80 percent of respondents saying that they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their work.3 Those in this rewarding nursing career know that their daily work is making a big difference in the healthcare field.
Why is nursing informatics important?
Though this field may seem complicated at first glance, the goal of nursing informatics is simple: to improve patient safety. These nurses are drivers of vision and change in healthcare, making them a vitally important part of the field. “Nursing informatics professionals are unique, hybrid heroes of healthcare,” says the HIMSS.3
The research and data analysis performed by nurse informaticists is used to create a vision for the future of the medical field, according to the AMIA.2 These nurses tackle issues like how to responsibly use technology in medical settings to ensure patient safety, and they explore new systems and communication strategies to better educate patients and providers.
However, their work also has an impact on the day-to-day operation of healthcare facilities. An article from EBSCO Health reports that the field of nurse informatics makes it easier for providers to communicate with one another, simplifying and improving treatment for patients.4 Nurse informaticist specialists can harness data to determine appropriate staffing ratios, the efficacy of treatment procedures and help inform nursing staff of best practices.
What are some common nursing informatics careers?
Nurses in this field typically work behind the scenes, rather than directly with patients, to improve patient care. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), common job titles within the nursing informatics field include:5
- Informatics nurse specialist
- Clinical informatics analyst
- Digital diabetes research officer
- Clinical informatics nurse
- RN clinical information systems coordinator
- Clinical informatics systems analyst
Though these roles all have differing job duties, they share the goal of improving healthcare and patient communication by combining clinical knowledge with technical and analytical skills. One task that rises to the forefront for many nurse informatics careers is systems implementation, which was rated as a top responsibility for 40 percent of respondents to the HIMSS survey.3
Nurses who hold these job titles can also expect to use their skills to collect and analyze data to improve patient care, develop new health IT solutions and collaborate with healthcare professionals in other departments to create data-driven strategies for the future of their organization.
How do you get started in nursing informatics?
If this look into nursing informatics is piquing your interest, you’re probably wondering how to get your foot in the door of this nursing specialty. The first step to a career in nursing informatics is to become a registered nurse. This includes earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
Many RNs also choose to earn a master’s degree in nursing informatics or a related field. Although a graduate degree isn’t technically required, the DOL reports that 41 percent of informatics nurse specialists hold a master’s degree, and the HIMSS survey reveals that 57 percent of respondents had a master’s degree or higher.3,5 Graduate programs in nursing informatics offer the specialized training RNs need to work in this unique field.
Lastly, you’ll need plenty of experience under your belt. For instance, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which offers board certification in informatics nursing, requires candidates to spend at least two years practicing nursing full time before they’re eligible to sit for the exam. This credential is optional, but it’s a good way to show employers that you’re well-prepared to work in this field. This requirement highlights the need for informatics nurses to understand the daily routines of patient-focused nurses and how they use technology.
Stay on top of nursing technology trends
The nursing informatics definition is no longer a mystery to you. But you still might be wondering if there are other healthcare technology trends you should know about. Learn more in our article, “5 Ways Technology Is Transforming the Way We Approach Medical Treatment.”
1Canadian Center of Science and Education, Global Journal of Health Science, The Role of Nursing Informatics on Promoting Quality of Health Care and the Need for Appropriate Education, [accessed April, 2020] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4825491/
2American Medical Informatics Association, Nursing Informatics Working Group. [accessed April, 2020] https://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics
3Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, HIMSS Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, [accessed April 2020] https://www.himss.org/resources-what-nursing-informatics
4EBSCO Health Notes, Five Ways Healthcare Informatics Help Nurses, https://health.ebsco.com/blog/article/five-way-healthcare-informatics-help-nurses [accessed April, 2020]
5Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [accessed April, 2020] www.bls.gov/oes/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.