What Is Nursing Informatics? (And How to Become a Nurse Informaticist)

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What Is Nursing Informatics?

Nursing informatics – it is a type of nursing that combines nursing, information science, and computer.

This type of specialist usually maintains and develops various types of medical data and systems that are used to improve patient care and nursing practice.

Among the technologies that were created with nursing informatics there are:

  • Computerized provider order entry (CPOE);
  • Electronic medical records (EMRs);
  • Test results;
  • Progress notes;
  • Nursing notes;
  • Medication records.

Nursing communications include three so-called “building blocks” – information, data, and knowledge.

Speaking of data, it is direct observations that shouldn’t be interpreted including such points as:

  • Patient’s name;
  • Age;
  • Vital signs;
  • Disease history.

When it comes to information, it is interpreted data such as:

  • Prevalence of hospital-acquired infections in each unite;
  • Amount of patient care delays in clinics.

Knowledge – it is some info that allows identifying relationships in order to observe and resolve certain issues.

There can be such examples as:

  • Nurse-patient ratios and their influence on patient outcomes;
  • Developing care protocols.

It is nurses who incorporate these three aspects in their daily work however all the data about it is stored with the help of special programs and software.

In such a way, health care providers can improve their services and provide high-quality and safe care to their patients.

Nurse informatics work on various information and communication technologies in the medical sphere.

Also, they can work as researchers, educators, chief nursing officers, and even software engineers.

They develop policies and procedures for medical facilities using the building blocks and research data.

Why Are Nurse Informatics Important?

In order to provide proper and safe care for patients, nurses need some important info.

Usually, the list includes such data as medical histories, lab and imaging results, medication lists, and physician/interdisciplinary team notes.

In such a way, nurses can get a complete image of their patient’s status and make some critical decisions that can influence patients’ care outcomes.

Nurses informatics, as well as pharmacists, physicians, and other types of medical informatics, are an important part of the improvement and development of the medical sphere and especially medical technologies.

It is clear as a day, that communication is an essential part of effective patient care.

Participating in the development of various health-care technologies such as computerized ordering and electronic records, nurses informatics has a great impact on the improvement of the medical sphere including reduction of errors, care delays, and services costs.

For example, nurses were obliged to transcribe provider orders by hand before CPOE was introduced.

As a result, there were lots of mistakes, delays, and omissions because of hard-to-read handwriting and various inaccuracies.

Modern software allows healthcare providers to select proper medication, dose, and frequency just in one click.

Also, there are programs that help to verify info about patients’ allergies and check prescriptions to protect their safety.

How to Become a Nurse Informatics?

To become successful nurse informatics, you need to have the excellent analytical and critical thinking, a good understanding of technologies, as well as problem-solving and management skills.

Speaking of the education requirements, you need to at least obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

However, it is better to give preference to some advanced-practice degree as it can provide you with some better career prospects.

In other words, you need to obtain a master’s program in nursing (MSN) or doctoral degree program (DNP).

Just keep in mind that you need to have a BSN if you want to apply for a master’s or doctoral degree.

Also, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN, pay the fees for the test, and obtain your nursing license.

The length of your training significantly depends on the starting point you have:

  • BSN program – about four years;
  • RN to BSN – about two years;
  • BSN to MSN – about two years;
  • BSN to DNP – three to four years;
  • MSN to DNP – one to two years.

You should know that you can apply for on-campus training as well as an online training program.

Of course, each option has its own advantages and disadvantages so make sure to make your research before making your final decision.

Education and Training Requirements for Nurses Informaticist

You should know that before applying for some graduate programs, you may be obliged to obtain a certain amount of clinical practice.

Also, in some cases, you can combine your education with your work.

You can get some important experience while working with unit-based tech support or IT team.

Educational Prerequisites

Speaking of master’s degree programs, you need to complete some specific courses including general advanced-practice courses.

When it comes to courses and practicum they may vary depending on the educational facility but nursing informaticist programs always include such classes as:

  • Statistics for evidence-based practice;
  • Database management;
  • Research;
  • Project management;
  • Clinical information systems;
  • Information security and privacy;
  • Informatics theory;
  • Leadership.

Examination, Licensure, and Certification

To get your certification in informatics, you can complete the MSN/DNP program or apply for an independent course provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or any other specialized facility.

Just keep in mind that certifications offered outside of an MSN/DNP program can have some specific application requirements so make sure to research this info before applying for it.

For example, students who apply for ANCC certification should have:

  • bachelor’s degree or higher;
  • two years of full-time experience as a nurse;
  • 30 hours of continuing education in nursing informatics;
  • one of the following practice hour requirements:
    • minimum of 2,000 hours in informatics nursing;
    • minimum of 1,000 hours in informatics nursing and a minimum of 12 semester hours of credit in informatics courses that are part of a graduate-level nursing informatics program;
    • a graduate program in nursing informatics with at least 200 hours of supervised practicum.

To obtain your certification, you need to pass an exam and it is valid for 5 years.

Just keep in mind that licensure and certification differ significantly.

The certification aims to prove a nurse’s competence and proficiency in a certain field while licensure gives an opportunity to work as a nurse in a certain state legally.

Each state has its own requirements for licensure but in most cases, you need to have a BSN, MSN, or DNP to be able to apply for it.

Nurse Informaticist Responsibilities & Duties

Nurse informaticists is an important role in the medical sphere as these specialists not only develop various useful technologies but also educate staff and help to implement new technologies successfully.

Among the responsibilities of nurse informaticist there are:

  • Assessing and analyzing health care technology needs;
  • Testing systems technology;
  • Designing systems technology;
  • Implementing the technology which also includes:
    • Staff training;
    • Escalating issues as needed;
    • Troubleshooting;
  • Assisting in the transition from one system’s technology to another;
  • Serving as project managers;
  • Developing organizational policies and standards;
  • Evaluating the success of implementation; revising as needed;
  • Serving as a resource to staff;
  • Serving as an educator to staff and new nurses;
  • Assisting in ensuring organizations meet federal health care laws such as HIPAA;
  • Assessing user requirements and developing solutions;
  • Serving as a liaison between staff and information technology experts;
  • Researching different informatics topics that affect health care providers as well as patients.

Career and Outlook

Considering the fact that computers and modern technologies constantly participate in the healthcare sphere, such crossover career options as nurse informaticists are in big demand.

With the help of their knowledge of nursing and modern technologies, these specialists can significantly improve healthcare services as well as patients’ safety.

Working Conditions

As a nurse informaticist, you can work in a whole variety of facilities including such options as:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Nursing schools
  • Health care consulting firms
  • IT companies

They are an important part of assisting teams in the healthcare system as they implement new technologies and help staff to learn how to use them.

Just keep in mind that this career requires lots of patience as not everyone is open to changes especially when it comes to modern technologies.

Considering the fact that technologies evolve rapidly, there are lots of medical workers who give preference to “stable” old methods.

You should be capable to deal with such issues and educate and support even the most challenging learners.

Salary and Employment

According to the data provided by PayScale, a salary of nurse informaticists can vary from $56 372 to $97 367 per year.

Speaking of a median salary, it is about $75 939 annually.

In fact, salary rates significantly depend on education level, additional certificates, location, experience, and employer.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing, in general, is a growing field with a great demand for specialists.

As data shows, by 2024 the number of career options will increase by 16% because of numerous aspects such as an aging population, retiring of qualified specialists, legislation issues and so on.

Speaking of the top-paying states for RNs, they are:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • Alaska

When it comes specifically to nurse informaticists, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide any specific data but it predicts a 21% growth of career options for computer systems analysts in general.

The modern healthcare sphere provides numerous career options for specialists who work with modern technologies.

In fact, nurses informaticists have one of the best career prospects as most healthcare providers want to improve the quality of their services while reducing expenses.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

  • American Medical Informatics Association
  • American Nursing Informatics Association
  • Alliance for Nursing Informatics
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

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