Nursing informatics is a popular career path for nurses.
But even if you don’t pursue a nursing informatics career — including those of you who think you know nothing at all about computers — you should understand how informatics impacts nurses and patients.
From data to knowledge to patient care, the essential elements of the American Nurses Association’s definition of nursing informatics deal with the concepts of taking data and bringing it together in meaningful ways.
According to Susan K. Newbold, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, FHIMSS, FAMIA, director of the Nursing Informatics Boot Camp and a speaker for our Nursing Informatics Certification Review, a six-week online continuing education program, meaningful ways include:
- Making information
- Creating nursing knowledge
- Working toward wisdom
You help gather and work with data regardless of your patient care roles or the environments in which you work.
In fact, bedside and other direct patient care nurses make valuable contributions to nursing informatics because you understand patient care needs and optimal workflow.
Nurses and other frontline healthcare providers help drive information technology, including how it ultimately improves patient care, Newbold said.
Choosing nursing informatics as a career
The nursing informatics specialty integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences, according to the ANA.
One recognizable aspect and specialty within nursing informatics and healthcare informatics in general is electronic health records.
According to the American Medical Informatics Association, nurse informaticians work as:
- Developers of communication and information technologies
- Chief nursing officers
- Chief information officers
- Software engineers
- Implementation consultants
- Policy developers
- Healthcare business owners
According to Newbold, nursing informatics experts answer questions about:
- Where to get needed data
- Whether or not the data is accurate
- If it’s the right type of data
- How to make the data meaningful and informative
- How to turn the data into nursing knowledge
- How to take the information to make predictions about patients
“We’re finally getting to this level,” Newbold said. “When I started in nursing informatics, we were so busy worrying about the data and where is it? Most of it was on paper. Well, now it’s in the computer, thank goodness. We’re starting to put it together in meaningful ways. We’re starting to get feedback. We’re starting to have things like dashboards that tell us how well we’re doing as far as patient care is concerned. That’s the bottom line why every nurse needs to know about informatics: because we need it to provide better care for our patients.”
The career is certainly evolving. Years ago, nurses might have been more inclined to go into informatics to help implement data systems.
Now, many hospital and other employers have those systems in place and nurses and other informatics experts are in charge of “optimization,” or expanding and refining how the data is captured and used, Newbold said.
For example, one of the issues nursing informatics experts are looking at today is documentation burden — whether nurses are having to document too much information, and how to optimize that.
“There still is job growth,” Newbold said. “I don’t think as much as when we were in the implementation phase, but skilled people are needed — especially those who have master’s degrees — to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, education.”
A career in nursing informatics might not involve direct patient care. While Newbold said she misses aspects of direct patient care, she sees her role as a nursing informatics educator as reaching far more patients than she could in previous nursing roles.
“Our purview is actually much wider now in informatics than it was when I worked as a head nurse on a 40-bed unit or when I worked as an evening supervisor at a 478-bed hospital,” she said.
Certification: Optional but helpful in the job hunt
Becoming certified in nursing informatics is optional, but it can give nurses applying for jobs in the field a valuable edge in the hiring process, according to Newbold.
Attending the certification review course prepares nurses for nursing informatics certification, but those are not the only nurses who attend, she said.
Some nurses have a limited background in the field and want to know more about the career or how to get involved in nursing informatics roles in their facilities.
You will find that nursing informatics is much more than using a computer, Newbold said.
Nursing informatics workforce statistics
According to a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey of 1,279 respondents:
- 46% of nurse informaticists indicated making an annual salary of more than $100,000.
- 25% reported their salaries ranged from $86,000 to $100,000, while 24% said they made between $61,00 and $85,000 annually.
- 42% worked at a hospital, and half of those are employed at Magnet-designated hospitals.
- 58% said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their current position, and 80% indicated they were satisfied or highly satisfied with the career choice.
- 64% did not have a supervisory role and no one reported to them.
Respondents’ job responsibilities included systems implementation and utilization/optimization.
Other survey respondent demographics include:
- 57% had a postgraduate degree.
- 24% had a master’s degree or PhD in nursing.
- More than 40% planned to pursue additional informatics education and training.
In recent HIMSS surveys from 2014 and 2017, respondents indicated a lack of administrative support and a lack of staffing resources were primary barriers to success. That has changed from previous surveys, which indicated a lack of financial resources and a lack of integration and interoperability were key barriers.
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