High-caliber nursing documentation. Evidence-based decision making. Quality assurance. Health records that follow the person: Nursing is built on information and, increasingly, it is built on computerized systems that allow practitioners to store and access information. These systems shouldn’t be left entirely to computer professionals who lack knowledge of healthcare and of the needs of the end user. Hence the need for nurse informaticists!
Nurse informaticists have expertise in three areas: nursing, information, and computer science. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) notes the following among the common duties: systems implementation, systems optimization, systems development, clinical analytics, quality initiatives, and regulatory initiatives. Many of these professionals have roles in the implementation of clinical documentation, electronic health records, and computerized provider order entries. Nurse informaticists also frequently act as educators and liaisons.
Savvy nurse informatics specialists are helping shape the future of nursing. The American Medical Informatics Association Nursing Informatics Working Group cites the following among the core areas: putting into place technologies to meet inter-professional workflow needs, providing for the presentation and retrieval of information that supports patient-centered care, and developing standards for an interoperable national data infrastructure (https://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics). Among the resources one will find on the AMIA Nursing Informatics webpage: a webinar on using informatics to link nursing care and patient outcomes.
Nursing informatics professionals don’t all have the same job description or indeed the same job title. They may go by any of the following: Nursing informatics specialist, clinical analyst, consultant, and clinical applications specialist. Nursing informatics may not be the whole career focus. Informatics can be useful for many macro or organizational nursing positions. Nurse informaticists are represented in policy development and management, according to HIMSS. Among the career possibilities: chief nursing officer and policy developer.
Becoming a Nurse Informaticist
Nurses get their foot in the door in different ways. Often they enter the field after a number of years in bedside nursing. Highly experienced RNs sometimes take on nurse informatics positions without formal education in the discipline. However, it is becoming more common to have a graduate degree in the field or, at minimum, to have completed a program or course. Notably, many nursing informatics professionals have graduate degrees, whether or not the degree is specifically in nurse informatics.
The American Nursing Informatics Association counts among its members large numbers of bachelor’s and graduate level nurses: 43% with bachelor’s degrees, 46% with master’s degrees, 6% with doctoral degrees. HIMSS surveys the nursing informatics population periodically, sending surveys out to members of multiple professional organizations. 57% of the 2017 survey respondents held graduate degrees in some field. The number with master’s degrees in nursing informatics had gone up slightly since the previous survey.
Employers and Work Settings
As a nurse informaticist, one will most likely work for a hospital or health system. However there are other possibilities.
42% of 2017 HIMSS survey respondents reported working for a hospital. 7% were stationed at the corporate offices of health systems, 9% in academic settings (which might include academic health systems), and 15% in some other type of health system. A small percentage reported working for each of the following: government or military entities, consulting firms, ambulatory care, and vendors. A small percentage selected ‘other’. The American Nursing Informatics Association, utilizing a different set of categories, reported 1% of their membership in home health and 1% in nursing facilities. (76% characterized their employment as hospital.)
The Magnet Connection
Magnet hospitals are known for nursing excellence and for using information to improve care. They have their eyes on nursing sensitive indicators: outcomes statistics that reflect on the quality of nursing care.
50% of the 2017 HIMSS survey respondents who worked in hospitals or hospital system corporate offices reported that they worked for a magnet hospital or that the system they worked for had magnet hospitals under its banner.
There are multiple voluntary certifications that may be of value.
The nursing informatics certification offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center is very popular; 27% of the 2017 respondents reported holding the ANCC Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC). Candidacy is extended to RNs who have two years of nursing experience and hold bachelor’s degrees in relevant fields. They can qualify by experience, education, or some combination of the two. The ANCC can accept a graduate degree in nursing informatics that includes 200 hours of supervised practicum. Also acceptable are 2,000 hours of relatively recent nursing informatics practice or 1,000 hours of practice and 12 semester hours of graduate informatics coursework earned through a nursing informatics program. The nurse will need to have pursued 30 hours of nursing informatics continuing education in the relatively recent past (https://www.nursingworld.org/our-certifications/informatics-nurse/).
The Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) offered through HIMSS is a runner up. Just 6% reported holding the CPHIMS, but an additional 14% expressed the intent to pursue it in the coming year. A CPHIMS candidate will need experience in healthcare information management systems; the amount depends on the degree level (bachelor’s or master’s). A candidate with a bachelor’s degree will need five years total in information and management systems, with at least three in the healthcare arena. With a master’s, the requirement is reduced to three years total, two in healthcare.
Nurse informatics professionals also frequently hold clinical nursing certifications.
Nurse Informaticist Salary
Nursing informatics can be a lucrative profession. 46% of those surveyed reported base salaries over $100,000. Most of the remainder were between $61,000 and $100,000, with 25% reporting 61,000 to 85,000 and another 24% reporting $86,000 to 100,000. A little over half had been in the field more than seven years.
How do these professionals feel about their choice of careers? 80% were highly satisfied; 16%, somewhat so.
American Nursing Informatics Association (https://www.ania.org)
Nursing Informatics Working Group (https://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics)
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (http://www.himss.org)
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