What Is a Nursing Informatics Specialist?

Registered nurses who work with information technology to manage medical data and systems are known as nursing informatics specialists. Learn about the job duties of these nurses, and discover the education, certification and licensing you'd need to become one. Review the salary potential for nursing informatics specialists. Schools offering Computer Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Nursing Informatics Specialist Do?

A nursing informatics specialist uses a combination of nursing knowledge and expertise in computers to manage the information systems used by nurses in hospitals, medical offices and clinics. They collect and analyze data, plan the design of information systems, oversee their implementation and train nurses and administrators in their use. In this role, your objectives would include improving treatment and drug administration regimens, record keeping practices, workflow procedures and medical decision-making practices.

What Education Would I Need?

For a specialist career in nursing informatics, you'll need to have already completed nursing training and be a registered nurse. A majority of respondents to the 2011 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) revealed that they had no formal training or education in informatics (www.himss.org). However, graduate-level certificate programs in health informatics and master's degree programs in nursing informatics are available if you do want formal training. You can expect to complete a certificate program in a year or a master's degree program in two years.

A health informatics certificate examines ways of using medical information and information technology to develop better health information systems. Your training may cover the application of health information in medical research, public health, clinical care and pharmacy services. Course topics might include healthcare project management, bioinformatics and data mining.

Master's degree programs in nursing informatics synthesize concepts from computer science, information science and nursing as well as exploring their application in the provision of healthcare, nursing research and patient education. You'll learn to analyze data, assess the efficacy of medical information systems and design or refine a system. Programs assign you to at least one clinical rotation in informatics. Course subjects might include advanced nursing practice, Web-based information systems and network maintenance. Some programs are available online.

What Certification is Available?

You can gain certification in nursing informatics from HIMSS and from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The ANCC certification exam is computer-based and thus accessible year-round. To be eligible for this exam, you must hold an RN license, a bachelor's degree, two years of full-time nursing experience and 30 hours of informatics continuing education. Additionally, you'll need to have completed a designated number of hours or informatics nursing and collegiate-level informatics coursework or a combination of the two.

HIMSS offers the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) certification. To be eligible, you must have a bachelor's degree and five years of information management experience or a graduate degree and three years of information management experience. For bachelor's degree holders, three of the five years must be healthcare-related. For graduate degree holders, two of the three years must be healthcare-related. The exam consists of 115 multiple-choice questions. CPHIMS certification is valid for three years, after which you need to renew it.

Where Do Professionals Work?

Your leading employment options are hospitals, insurers and other healthcare services firms, as well as postsecondary schools, consulting firms, government agencies and ambulatory care providers. The HIMSS survey shows that hospitals are the largest employer. According to O*Net Online (www.onetonline.org), approximately 532,000 informatics nurse specialists were employed as of 2008. Employment is projected to grow more than 20% from 2008-2018. Demand for nurse informatics specialists will be driven by increased adoption of information technology in medical care.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The HIMSS survey showed that the average salary of nursing informatics specialists was $98,702 in 2011, up from $83,675 in 2007 and $69,500 in 2004. The median was $88,000. Geographically, the best salaries were in the Pacific and New England regions, which had the highest averages at $116,716 and $123,611, respectively. Certification also had a notable impact on salaries - specialists without certification earned $93,787 and those with certification earned $119,644.

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