Later this month, more than 40,000 health IT professionals, clinicians, executive and vendors from around the world will converge on Orlando for the 2017 HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition. Among the preconference symposia will be a day-long program on nursing informatics. Titled “Harnessing Disruptive Innovation,” the symposium will focus on disruptive leadership, state-of-the-art interoperability, and the importance and use of patient-generated data.

Nursing informatics is where patient care meets health IT — or as HIMSS defines it, “the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information management and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice.” It’s a hybrid career field — we’ve blogged about these before — that is transforming health care while providing personal and financial rewards — for those with the smarts, vision and fortitude to see it through.

The larger field of health informatics has outsized implications for human health, framed by mammoth efforts like the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and calls for a revolution in harnessing the power of aggregated patient data.

With the exponential growth in health-care data, the need to reduce health-care costs, the federal mandate for electronic health records (EHRs), and the need to deliver ever-improving care, masters and doctoral programs in nursing informatics are responding to the demand. In the HIMSS 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, the median salary reported for nurse informaticists was $93,000. The average salary reported was $100,717, according to the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.

Compare that to the 2015 median pay for registered nurses ($67,490) and computer-systems analysts ($85,800) — both fields booming today as well — and you begin to see the potential.

To get a sense of what nursing informatics means to people entering the field or to employers seeking qualified candidates, take a glance at these:

Nursing Informatics in Two Minutes

This short slide deck, published in 2015 by the American Medical Informatics Association, describes how improved patient care is the ultimate outcome of improved sharing of secure data, cost reduction, and greater accuracy and speed of care. The presentation focuses on four settings where nursing informatics plays critical roles:

  • Clinical: EHRs, patient monitoring, computer-generated care plans, e-billing;
  • Administrative: digital communications, quality assurance and outcomes analysis, cost analysis, automated scheduling;
  • Educational: digital records, computer-assisted instruction, distance learning including continuing education, instructional technologies;
  • Research: specialized research databases, standardization of nursing language, data analysis.

HIMSS Nurse eMentor Podcast with Mark Sugrue, RN-BC

Sugrue is not only a registered nurse but also director of health industries advisory at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He points out that there is no conventional path to becoming a nursing informaticist but there are some common traits among successful individuals:

  • Strong clinical foundation
  • Leadership capability, ability to inspire and guide others
  • Education, either through formal academic programs or learning on the job

How one prepares for a career in nursing informatics depends on one’s background. The nursing professional with strong clinical experience has the necessary foundational skills — for example, strong communication and leadership in patient advocacy. They must then transition into technology, specifically computer and information science. For those who are not nurses but who possess tech skills, Sugrue suggests thinking hard about taking on nursing — not a casual decision, and there’s really no other way to grasp the technical and ethical demands of the profession. The payoff, beyond a good salary, includes promoting patient care through IT and helping to transform health care into the future.

Consider Pursuing a Career in Health Informatics

This 2014 story, excerpted from the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools 2015 guidebook, glances at the experience of a recent college graduate with a degree in biological sciences who entered health informatics. It makes a point of the importance of an advanced degree in this field as challenges multiply for making sense of increasingly complex data and information systems.

Let’s face it. Becoming a nurse is tough enough. Informatics on top of that? It takes a lot of heart.

Who qualifies?

While it’s still possible to enter informatics with a bachelor’s degree, new professionals need a lot of on-the-job training: experience in handling EHRs, perhaps multidisciplinary work involving technology or systems strategy, working as a nurse in any specialized area. All of that could provide the expertise that will give them a leg up. But….

Nursing informatics specialists must be board certified (RN-BC) by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which established the following criteria:

Hold a current, active RN license within a state or territory of the United States or the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country.

Hold a bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as a registered nurse.

Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics nursing within the last 3 years.

Meet one of the following practice hour requirements:

  • Have practiced a minimum of 2,000 hours in informatics nursing within the last 3 years.
  • Have practiced a minimum of 1,000 hours in informatics nursing in the last 3 years and completed a minimum of 12 semester hours of academic credit in informatics courses that are part of a graduate-level informatics nursing program.
  • Have completed a graduate program in informatics nursing containing a minimum of 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum in informatics nursing.

Other certifications are also encouraged.

It makes sense that, in a field focused on making meaning from information, the same need exists for students to manage their personal educational documentation. Students pursuing an education in nursing informatics will benefit from portable, secure e-portfolios to manage their data throughout the educational process.

We’ve written before about the importance and usefulness of these “digital repositories of student work,” CB Bridges being a leading trendsetter in the field. Reach out to us at tekMountain for more information.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda Sipes, and Zach Cioffi with lead writer Bill DiNome.   


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