A Career Overview of the Nursing Informatics Specialist
Nursing informatics specialists incorporate nursing science, information technology and analytical sciences in order to effectively process, manage and communicate important information among nurses, patients and healthcare personnel. Becoming a nursing informatics specialist requires extensive technical capabilities and industry knowledge; as an advanced level nursing career option, nursing informatics specialists can expect to build technologies that provide supportive functions for patients and healthcare professionals. A Master of Science in Nursing degree can provide individuals with the necessary training to help improve the efficiency and impact of healthcare processes, expanding the national influence of quality medical care.
The Role of Nursing Informatics Specialists
Nursing informatics specialists use advanced technology to keep nurses, doctors and patients connected, enriching the function of healthcare programs and medical facilities. There is a proactive component to this role—specialists are responsible for determining what is needed by healthcare professionals to improve the efficiency of workflow, then designing and implementing the appropriate technological solutions. Nursing informatics specialists are also responsible for ensuring that emerging information technologies are used in ways that might mitigate the negative effects of a high volume of patients on densely-packed network infrastructures. This includes performing data recovery when and if patient records are lost; managing human interaction with computers and other network-connected devices; and facilitating the integration of information technology into the routines of clinical, management, and research-oriented healthcare professionals.
In addition to developing new information technologies for healthcare facilities, nursing informatics specialists educate their colleagues on the best methods of operating said technologies. This requires specialists to gather and analyze data regarding the effectiveness of different technologies, and present their insights to clients, organizations and students. To verify that their ideas actually promote improved patient-centric care, nursing informatics specialists conduct research throughout the gradual implementation of their ideas into modern health care practices and policies. In doing so, specialists provide critical leadership and wisdom, gradually making the entire healthcare process more effective at treating patients.
In order to prepare for a career interacting with patients and hospital personnel, nursing informatics specialists must have a fundamental understanding of nursing skills, practices and theories, which are best gained through certification as a registered nurse. There are several routes to becoming a registered nurse—such as completing a nursing diploma program or earning an associate’s degree in nursing—but the suggested approach is to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited program. The more comprehensive an individual’s understanding of the nursing profession, the better equipped he or she will be to identify the needs of healthcare organizations, making graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing prime candidates for advanced administrative, consultative, teaching and research-based nursing roles.
Following the initial attainment of a formal degree, a prospective nursing informatics specialist must pass the NCLEX-RN examination and obtain a state license to officially become a registered nurse. A master’s degree in information science or computer science may qualify someone for a more technology-centered role in the nursing informatics profession, but obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing is more likely to supplement a registered nurse’s competency in patient care, nursing practices, information literacy, human physiology and nursing research and statistics. Honing these skills bolsters an individual’s capability of performing the fundamental tasks associated with nursing informatics.
How Nursing Informatics Benefits the Healthcare Industry
Becoming a nursing informatics specialist means providing a valuable service to professionals who work to save lives. Below are specific ways pursuing a career in nursing informatics benefits the healthcare industry:
- Promoting Quality Healthcare: The work of a nursing informatics specialist greatly improves a medical facility’s ability to collect, assess, apply and report on critical patient data. The subsequent information-rich health care environment means that hospitals are more prepared to offer evidence-based nursing that prioritizes patient safety during medical procedures.
- Improving Healthcare Team Management: The use of advanced information technology is proven to allow for careful shift planning and effective management of nurses and resources. This means more patients can receive regular care without too much strain on nursing teams.
- Implementing Advanced Systems in Hospitals: Replacing old diagnostic systems with smarter, more intuitive tools—such as artificial intelligence and precision systems—helps limit medical errors and prevent harm to patients. These systems provide patients and nurses with advanced diagnostic support, precise treatment plans and decision support systems for clinical use. When combined with hospital information systems, these systems can greatly improve patient access to effective treatment.
- Simplifying Nursing Work: By designing efficient processes that incorporate the ideas of the personnel who will be interacting with them, nursing informatics specialists can provide health care facilities with advanced systems that are compatible with the needs of medical professionals.
- Strengthening the Telenursing Industry: Telenurses apply their special nursing skills and knowledge to providing services over the phone or Internet. Nursing informatics specialists ensure that online access is consistently available, allowing nursing professionals to educate patients who are not able to appear in person on the key aspects of improving their own well-being through self-care practices.
- Educating Nurses: The quality of nursing training that is available online continues to improve with new innovations in nursing informatics, as specialists produce more effective technologies for facilitating the remote education of nursing professionals.
Nursing informatics specialists straddle the line that separates medical professionals and information technology professionals, meaning they must be adept in a wide range of technical skills to be effective in their line of work. Some of the most critical skills include the following:
- Computer Skills: Nursing informatics specialists spend a large amount of time using computers during their careers. Individuals pursuing this profession need to be competent in performing advanced computational tasks, such as programming and network infrastructure administration.
- Leadership: Nursing informatics specialists provide high-quality leadership to ensure that information systems are implemented correctly. When these individuals use strategic leadership to present to all nursing team members a vision that incorporates technology, the medical facilities that they operate within become better prepared to embrace technology as a key component of their practices and policies.
- Teamwork: Managing massive networks requires the cooperation of many nurses and medical personnel. Communicating with other individuals is the best way to identify design flaws and technical bugs.
- Attention to Detail: Nursing informatics specialists must be thorough in their work, paying attention to every aspect of current technology in order to identify new opportunities to enhance a hospital’s information-sharing and communication systems. They also need to pay attention to which team members are struggling to acclimate to new systems and information technology so they can deliver the appropriate instruction or guidance.
- Data Analysis: The ability to process and analyze data is extremely important for nursing informatics specialists, who need to interpret massive amounts of data and compile useful information that can be used to improve medical facilities’ information technology infrastructures.
- Organization: Remaining organized is imperative for nursing informatics specialists, as they tend to operate independently with the expectation that they balance a wide range of technical job functions with patient needs.
- Research: Information is a primary component of a nursing informatics specialist’s job, thus collecting detailed and accurate data is important. Staying up to date on the latest research techniques and trends guarantees that the most valuable data is available.
- Critical Thinking: Applying logic and reason through the critical thinking process allows nursing informatics specialists to assess their circumstances and generate effective solutions to problems in both the long and short term.
Salary and Job Growth
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual income of $68,450 for registered nurses in 2016, with the profession expected to grow by 16 percent between 2014 and 2024. Advancement in this career path can be rewarding—according to a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society survey, the median annual salary of qualified nursing informatics specialists was $93,000 in 2014.
The information technology that nursing informatics specialists implement can provide advanced technical support that enhances the communication process between patients and hospital personnel. Strong communication—whether between patient and caregiver, or amongst a team of medical personnel—is vital to the success of medical care. By ensuring that information systems are built to utilize relevant information and provide a user-friendly experience, nursing informatics specialists can provide medical facilities with a heightened ability to adapt to change, improving the quality of care and maximizing the ability to save lives.
Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.
Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program helps students hone their knowledge and skills to assume leadership positions in nursing informatics, healthcare systems leadership or nursing education. The program aims to develop students who could take a role in shaping health policy, in educating other nurses and healthcare professionals, and in providing advanced care to their patients. Norwich’s online nursing program coursework has been developed based on guidelines by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.