How to Become an Informatics Nurse Specialist – Career Guide
Technology has impacted health care in the form of digital records, data management and data analysis for care. The charts that hung on patients’ beds for decades now live in computers. Vital signs, medicines administered, and updates on a patient’s condition can all be entered into a hospital’s computer. And at an administration level, technology streamlines such things as analyzing staffing needs or gathering a patient’s insurance information.
What is nursing informatics? Informatics is the term used to describe the integration of health care data and analytics. Nursing roles that integrate informatics include informatics nurses, clinical informatics specialists and nursing informatics specialists.
Steps to Become an Informatics Nurse
If you’re interested in a career where nursing and technology intersect, becoming an informatics nurse may be right for you. Below are some common steps to consider:
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program.
Earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is likely the minimum required to pursue a career in nursing informatics. Clinicals are part of your nursing instruction, where student nurses are supervised in rotating settings at a hospital as part of their education. If you’re studying online, most universities are set up to help you coordinate your clinicals locally.
2. Take your licensing exam.
To practice as a licensed registered nurse, you will be required to take and pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to pursue licensure by your state.
3. Consider pursuing a master’s degree in health informatics.
While some entry-level positions don’t require a master’s degree, the specialization and expertise you learn in a master’s in health informatics program may expand your skills and knowledge in the field. Coursework may include health information systems, data management, health law and ethics (such as privacy laws), and more.
4. Pass the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certification exam.
This gives you the RN-BC Informatics Nurse Certification that may be required in some positions. Requirements for this certification include 1,000-2,000 hours of informatics nursing experience, 30 hours of continued education in informatics within the last three years, two years of full-time RN experience, and a bachelor’s degree.
5. Keep up with your continuing education.
All nurses complete a certain number of hours of continuing professional education to keep their licenses current. Each state will have different requirements for RN licensure. Check with your state board of nursing.
Pathways to Become an Informatics Nurse
There are different pathways to become an informatics nurse, depending on what level of education you’ve completed:
- Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN): A BSN is required for certification by the ANCC. BSN programs help prepare you to earn RN licensure, which may be required to practice in your state.
- RN to BSN: If you are an RN now and want to earn your BSN, there are RN-to-BSN bridge programs offered by universities for practicing nurses that may take less time than traditional programs.
- Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN): With a master’s degree in nursing, you may apply to take the ANCC informatics certification exam as long as you have 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum work. An MSN degree may also prepare you to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in your state.
- RN to MSN: If you’re an RN who wants to pursue a master’s degree, you can earn your MSN through an RN-to-MSN bridge program in two to three years; clinical hours may add to that total.
- Post-Master’s Certificate: If you already have a master’s degree in nursing but want to become more advanced in informatics, consider a nursing informatics certificate.
- Online Nursing Degrees: Many of these pathways can be completed online through reputable nursing schools. Online learning programs, such as an online MSN program, may be preferred for those who want to work while they study or who prefer a more self-paced program.
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1 U.S. News & World Report, 2022 Best Nursing Schools: Master’s. Ranked in 2021.
Should I Become an Informatics Nurse?
It’s an important question, and it’s all about you. If you’re already a nurse or you’ve decided to become one, you’ve made the decision that you want to help people during some of the most important times of their lives. If you are also a person who appreciates technology and its contributions to society, if you understand how data-driven analysis and decision-making work, and if you are a patient, results-oriented person, being an informatics nurse might suit you.
With jobs for registered nurses projected to increase 7% from 2019-2029, roles for informatics nurses and other RN positions are expected to grow. Median pay for registered nurses was $73,330 per year in 2020.
In the 2020 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, administered by HIMSS every three years:
- 63% of the 1,359 respondents said they earned a base annual salary of $61,000 to $115,000
- 49% said they earned more than $100,000
- More than 80% said they were highly satisfied with their career choice
- 10% said they were not satisfied with their position
- Less than 5% said they were not satisfied with informatics as a career choice
Salary is also where the higher levels of education benefit an informatics nurse. In the $61,000-$85,000 range, more nurses had ADN/LPN or BSN degrees, but at every level higher than that, the majority had a master’s degree or higher. And 56% of nurses with certification in informatics earned more than $100,000, compared with 39% who were pursuing certification and 40% who were not pursuing certification.
Roles and Responsibilities
The overarching responsibility for an informatics nurse is to improve the quality of patient care through technology by managing and analyzing data. Informatics nurses duties include:
- Assessing, planning, implementing, evaluating, and optimizing nursing informatics in the facility
- Communicating and collaborating with other team members
- Helping design and implement data-driven quality-improvement practices for patient care
- Helping assess information and technology needs
- Coordinating orientation and training when new programs are implemented
- Helping patient-care managers interpret data to use in patient care
- Writing policies on when and how to use new technology
Nurses have an inherent set of skills: patience, detail-orientation, interpersonal communication, leadership, and the ability to learn and retain large amounts of clinical information. All those skills can apply to informatics nurses as well, but they may also have detailed knowledge of technology and excel at problem-solving, management, communication, teaching, leadership, and analytical and innovative thinking. Many of these skills may also benefit informatics nurses elsewhere in their careers through networking, mentoring and training.
Informatics Nurse Certifications
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers many nursing certification exams, including the Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC) exams.
- Active nursing license at an RN level at minimum
- Bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or a related field
- Minimum of two years’ full-time practice as a registered nurse
- Completion of 30 hours of informatics nursing continuing education in the past three years
- 2,000 hours of informatics nursing practice in the last three years, or 1,000 hours of informatics nursing practice in the last three years and completion of at least 12 semester credit hours in a graduate informatics nursing program, or completion of a graduate program in informatics nursing with at least 200 faculty-supervised hours in informatics nursing
- American Nurses Association members: $295
- American Nursing Informatics Association members: $340
- Non-members: $395
- Renewal: Certifications are renewed every five years.
- American Nurses Association members: $250
- American Nursing Informatics Association members: $295
- Non-members: $350
Information on the ANCC certification above was retrieved in June 2021.
Informatics Nurse Resources
There are several organizations, associations and publications supporting informatics nurses and clinicians:
- Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI) brings together more than 30 local, regional, national, and international informatics groups. Its mission includes connecting informatics nursing individuals and groups with the health care community and operating in a support capacity for those who are integral in all aspects of developing resources and career services.
- American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) includes physicians, nurses, researchers, educators, scientists, policymakers and other clinicians. It prioritizes clinical care, research, education, and policy related to informatics. Its peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) is published bimonthly.
- American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA) advances “nursing informatics through education, research, and practice in all roles and settings.” It is the association of professional informatics nurses, with 25 national/regional chapters. It offers a certification review continuing education series, and sponsors an annual conference exploring the integration of technology and nursing, with hands-on learning labs. Its Journal of Informatics Nursing is published quarterly for members.
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is a global nonprofit organization that includes more than 80,000 individual members, 650 health-service organizations, 480 provider organizations, and 470 nonprofit partners. Its mission is to “reform the global health ecosystem through the power of information and technology.” It works to improve health innovation, research, workforce issues, and public policy as they relate to informatics and patient care.
- International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA), “the world body for health and biomedical informatics,” is composed of informatics organizations, associations, and societies worldwide. It publishes a code of ethics handbook for health information professionals and four journals: Applied Clinical Informatics, Informatics for Health and Social Care, International Journal of Medical Informatics, and Methods of Information in Medicine.
Related Nursing Careers
If you’re interested in a nursing career but still aren’t sure about informatics, there are many other options; nursing is a versatile, multifaceted career. Some related types of nursing careers include:
- Registered nurse: Registered nurses are both the front line and the backbone of the nursing system, and they are present in many medical facilities and organizations. They may specialize in many areas, including cardiology, critical care, emergency medicine, family practice, geriatrics, labor and delivery, mental health, neuro-trauma, pediatrics, oncology, orthopedics, and more. One can become a registered nurse through a number of RN programs.
- Case-management nurse: While most nurses work in patient care, case-management nurses also coordinate other resources (inside and outside the organization) and members of the health-care team to best benefit the patient.
- Nurse executive: A nurse executive leads the nursing team in a hospital or other health care organization. They are nurses, leaders and managers, part of the senior administrative team and the nursing staff’s main representative in upper-level discussions and decisions.
- Public health nurse: Public health nurses can work in schools or hospitals, but often work in the community alongside social workers and other advocates. They educate patients and the public on vital health-care subjects, such as safe sex, prenatal care, hygiene, vaccinations, and more.
- Travel nurse: Travel nurses work in different places based on need, usually in hospitals where there are staff shortages. They receive housing stipends in addition to their hourly pay, and get to experience working and living in different parts of the country – and may be able to broaden their experience more quickly than working in one job.
- Nurse practitioners: If you choose to pursue a master’s degree in nursing, you may be able to become a nurse practitioner. Advanced practice nurse practitioners are RNs educated at the MSN level.
If you have questions about aspects of becoming an informatics nurse, check our FAQ section below.
Informatics nurses stand at the intersection of nursing and technology. They are nurses with an RN license and/or BSN or MSN degrees in nursing who also are educated in managing data analysis and electronic medical records.
Informatics nurses manage health information via software programs, analyze data, and work to maintain and develop systems to support their health care facility. They work with electronic medical records to improve patient care, support health care teams, improve communication system-wide, and increase positive hospital outcomes.
There are positions for informatics nurses in hospitals, other health care facilities, insurance companies, universities, consulting firms, corporations, and state and federal government.
While there are some similarities in the management of information between the two positions, the focus for an informatics nurse is patient care. Health care informatics is broader and takes into account more health care administration priorities.
Information on this page was updated in June 2021.