How to Become an Informatics Nurse
Updated July 18, 2022 · 6 Min Read
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On this page, we cover aspects of nursing informatics and the steps needed to enter this rapidly evolving field.
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With medical technologies continuing to advance, the need for individuals who can find ways to optimize their use within the healthcare industry has become increasingly vital. This has led to a rise in nursing informatics.
Informatics nurses can fill a wide range of roles within healthcare. These include clinical and research roles in both hospital and academic settings. The contributions nurses provide within this role are helping to transform healthcare.
Detailed throughout this guide is an overview of nursing informatics and the steps needed to pursue this career.
What Is an Informatics Nurse?
According to the American Nurses Association, an informatics nurse "is the specialty that integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice."
The role of an informatics nurse is to use statistics to determine what is and what is not working in a healthcare setting. These settings include hospitals, physicians' offices, smaller community health centers, and the public health department.
Informatics nurses review nursing processes to make sure everything is up-to-date, help patients manage their health through the use of technology, and analyze clinical and financial data. When performing these duties, informatics nurses determine ways to make improvements or carry out any necessary changes.
Steps to Becoming an Informatics Nurse
Becoming an informatics nurse consists of certain educational and licensing requirements. Interested nurses have to earn an advanced degree while also gaining the necessary experiences to successfully carry out the role.
Specific educational and licensing requirements not only vary from one state to another, they also differ from one academic program to the next. However, the general steps needed to become a licensed informatics nurse include the following steps.
1. Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.
Before becoming an informatics nurse, those interested must earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree from an accredited academic institution.
These programs typically take four years to complete and include a curriculum that focuses on anatomy, physiology, microbiology, psychology, statistics, basic pharmacology, and research and theory.
Students who have already earned an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can enroll in an RN-to-BSN degree program, which allows them to earn their bachelor's in two years or less.
Those with a bachelor's in a field other than nursing have the opportunity to enroll in an accelerated BSN program, which can take 12-18 months to complete.
2. Pass the NCLEX exam.
The NCLEX examines the test-taker's knowledge and critical thinking skills, measuring the competency of nursing school graduates. After passing the exam, prospective nurses must apply for a registered nurse (RN) license in their respective states.
3. Enroll in a nursing graduate program.
While some entry-level informatics positions do not require an advanced degree, earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) provides nurses with significantly more professional opportunities.
Most graduate nursing programs that provide a specialization in informatics focus on health information systems, data management, and health law/ethics. It is also within an MSN or DNP program where students determine which area of the population they want to specialize.
4. Earn a specialty certification and informatics nurse licensure.
Upon completion of their graduate program, nurses must pass the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam to earn their certification in informatics nursing.
Outside of the exam itself, nurses must have logged 1,000-2,000 hours of experience in nursing informatics, 30 hours of continued education in informatics, and two years of full-time RN experience to earn their license.
5. Find employment.
Once they have earned their state licensure, informatics nurses typically find employment with hospitals and medical clinics, insurance companies, healthcare information or production solution technology companies, universities, consulting firms, or state/federal government associations.
Once employed, informatics nurses use data to monitor health-related programs and patient-care projects. By analyzing data, they can help develop healthcare policy, encourage evidence-based practices, and improve efficiency and accuracy through information technologies.
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Informatics Nurse Schooling
The way to enter informatics nursing varies upon the person's nursing education and background. Whether starting as a graduate of a high school, vocational school, or undergraduate program, there are several paths prospective informatics nurses can take, all of which start with their schooling.
Initially, prospective informatics nurses must become an RN by either earning an ADN or a BSN. However, RNs with associate degrees will typically need to earn their BSN before being admitted into a graduate program.
Upon completion of their undergraduate work, students must pass the NCLEX and apply for state licensure. While academic programs do vary, the following lists standard aspects of most BSN programs.
- Admission Requirements: Programs typically look for applicants who have a 2.75 GPA in high school or within their ADN program. They also require a writing sample, resume, reference letters, and volunteer experience. Most accepted applicants have completed coursework in anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physiology.
- Program Curriculum: BSN programs usually include courses in anatomy, microbiology, psychology, statistics, nutrition and diet, pharmacology, and research. Programs also include clinical rotations where students apply the skills learned in the classroom to real-life settings
- Time to Complete: For those entering a traditional BSN program, it takes four years to earn the degree. If an applicant already has earned their ADN, there are options that will allow them to earn their BSN in approximately two years.
Applicants who have earned a bachelor's degree in another field have the option of an accelerated BSN program that can take 1-2 years to complete.
- Skills Learned: Upon earning their BSN, nurses have an understanding of how and why the body works the way it does, including the impact of a variety of medications, treatments, and therapies. Outside of academic skills and knowledge, graduates also learn how to communicate effectively, use critical thinking skills in nursing, educate patients and their families, and maintain their composure during stressful situations.
After earning their BSN and gaining real-world experience, nurses can continue their education by enrolling in a master of science in nursing (MSN) program. Earning an MSN provides nurses with access to better nursing positions and nursing leadership roles.
MSN programs typically include the following features.
- Admission Requirements: MSN programs usually require students to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 within their undergraduate program. Applicants must also have at least 1-2 years of nursing experience before admission. Nurses must possess a valid nursing license in their home state. They will also need to provide transcripts, a personal essay, and letters of reference.
- Program Curriculum: In a typical MSN program, students take advanced classes in physiology, health assessment, pharmacology, nursing management, and healthcare policy and ethics.
In addition, informatics nursing students take courses such as theories and models supporting nursing informatics, designing and managing scalable projects, information system life cycle, and advanced concepts of informatics. Students also must complete an average of 500 clinical hours.
- Time to Complete: Standard MSN programs can take up to two years to complete when attending full time. Students can complete their coursework on a part-time basis, but it will take longer to finish the program.
- Skills Learned: Upon completion of their MSN program, nurses will have advanced insight into diagnosing illnesses, managing chronic diseases, using the latest treatment methods, and prescribing medication. Graduates also gain nursing soft skills like critical thinking, collaboration, time management, and resourcefulness.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Nurses who have already earned their BSN can choose to apply for a program that will allow them to earn their DNP. Upon completion of a DNP program, nurses possess the highest level of expertise. Because of this, they typically work in either a clinical setting or within a leadership role.
Although there are many DNP programs, they typically include the following characteristics.
- Admission Requirements: To gain admission into a DNP program, applicants must have already earned a minimum of a BSN and have a valid nursing license. Most programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA and applicants must provide their previous transcripts and reference letters.
- Program Curriculum: According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the curriculum of a DNP program must include the following elements:
- Scientific foundations for practice
- Organization and systems leadership
- Critical scholarship and analytical methods
- Information systems/technology and patient-care technology
- Healthcare policy for advocacy
- Interprofessional collaboration
- Clinical prevention and population health
- Advanced nursing practice
- Time to Complete: Full-time students can expect to earn their DNP in 3-4 years, while it may take part-time learners 6-7 years.
- Skills Learned: Upon completion of the program, graduates have advanced knowledge in physiology, pharmacology, health assessment, healthcare economics, informatics, and social issues/health policy. They also should have refined skills in communication, leadership, attention to detail, and resourcefulness.
Informatics Nurse Credentials
There are two main types of credentials that informatics nurses can get: licensure and certifications. To work in informatics, a nurse must have an RN license. While not always required, informatics nurses are also able to earn their certification, which makes them more attractive to prospective employers.
A certification in informatics nursing can help nurses stand out when applying for a new position. It shows the nurse's commitment to the specialty and their high level of competency. The certification exam is offered by the ANCC.
While not universally required, some employers prefer hiring certified informatics nurses.
Upon getting the certification, nurses must renew it every five years. Renewal requires that the nurse has completed at least 75 hours of continuing education for nurses and continues to hold an active RN license.
To work in the informatics nursing field, the nurse must be a licensed RN. This license is required for any nurse looking to pursue this career choice.
To get an RN license, prospective nurses must complete an accredited nursing program (either ADN or BSN), register and pass the NCLEX, and apply for licensure in the appropriate state.
While requirements for maintaining an RN license may vary from one state to another, nurses typically must renew their license every two years. They must also have completed a certain number of continuing education hours, with 30 required hours being the most common.
Working as an Informatics Nurse
While completing the informatics nursing program, the best way for students to help them land their future position is through professional networking with nurses — developing and maintaining a relationship with healthcare informatics experts.
Upon graduation, informatics nurses are provided with a wide range of opportunities and can work in various areas. Common settings include hospitals, physicians' offices, community health centers, consulting firms, government, healthcare product solutions companies, international organizations, research facilities, and academic settings.
According to Payscale in April 2022, informatics nursing specialists earn an hourly wage of $35.11 or an average yearly salary of $79,790, which can increase to around $84,000 after 10-19 years of service.
Most informatics nursing positions are away from the bedside.
Common workplace settings:
In a traditional hospital setting, informatics nurses manage the transition from paper to digital records, implement and/or develop patient health monitoring systems, and track the impact of new information systems/technologies.
Working in physicians' offices, informatics nurses update electronic health records and software tools, develop care plans, and educate patients and their families on information systems.
Community Health Centers
Within community health centers, informatics nurses attempt to improve the collaboration among doctors, community health leaders, and patients. They also monitor and track the health status of a community and develop strategies to help community health workers maintain up-to-date patient profiles.
Becoming an Informatics Nurse: FAQ
Is nurse informatics a good career?
According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), about 51% of informatics nurses are highly satisfied with their current position, while more than 75% are highly satisfied with their overall career choice.
Can you work from home as an informatics nurse?
Yes, it is possible to work at home as an informatics nurse. The HIMSS workforce survey found 45% of informatics nurses reported working remotely at some point during the week, with 21% working entirely from home.
How much do nurses make in nurse informatics?
Informatics nurses can earn an average yearly salary of $79,790. It can increase after years of experience. The median annual pay for RNs as a whole is $77,600. Therefore, compared to other RNs, informatics nurses earn an above-average salary.
Is nursing informatics difficult?
With the field of nursing informatics being fairly new and with the rapid evolution of healthcare technology, the position can be somewhat challenging. However, those who enjoy collaborating with professionals in different departments and working with new technologies enjoy the field.
Is there a demand for nursing informatics?
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not provide projected job growth for informatics nurses specifically, they do anticipate RN employment to increase by 9% from 2020-2030. Coupled with the development and increased use of technology, informatics nurses should continue to be in demand.
Learn More About Informatics Nurses
Page last reviewed January 15, 2022
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