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What Is a Nurse Informatics Specialist?

Since the days of Florence Nightingale, nursing has placed a priority on patient-centered care. Kindness and compassion are a cornerstone of that care. Increasingly, informatics also plays a fundamental role.

The healthcare system is growing more complex by the day. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, nurses are taking on new roles to meet those challenges. Some of these roles meet the growing demand for registered nurses (RNs) in the burgeoning field of informatics.

From electronic health records (EHRs) to medical wearables, technology and data factor into every aspect of healthcare. At Northeastern State University (NSU), the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Informatics online program prepares RNs with the advanced competencies they need for leadership roles in informatics.

What Is Nursing Informatics?

When it comes to data, healthcare has an abundance. EHRs produce volumes of data on everything from zip codes to clinical notes. Other sources of data include:

  • Medical imaging
  • Scanned documents
  • Insurance claims
  • Wearables, such as devices to track blood pressure and heart rate
  • Apps, such as those used to track exercise and sleep
  • Medical devices, such as glucose monitoring systems

As TechEmergence notes, sources could also include grocery store purchases and social media.

Enter nursing informatics. Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice defines nursing informatics as "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."

To put it simply, nursing informatics is about using information technology to enhance the quality of patient care. And, it has moved well beyond implementing EHRs. As informatics specialist Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, CPHIMS, pointed out in a Healthcare Informatics article, "Now it's 'Okay, now that we got it, what do we do with it, and how do we leverage it to really demonstrate value-based care?'"

Sensmeier explains the importance of nurse informatics specialists: "The nurse has been at the bedside and understands the information needs in order to do his or her job well and that moves forward into their role to really be an advocate for that."

An MSN in Nursing Informatics prepares RNs to leverage their clinical background to improve health systems. NSU's program combines coursework for advanced practice nursing with specialized informatics courses that emphasize:

  • Management and transformation of data
  • Systems implementation and optimization
  • Healthcare hardware, software and peripherals
  • Leadership and change management skills

What Is the Job Outlook in Nursing Informatics?

Nursing is a high-demand profession, and that is not likely to change any time soon. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of RNs is expected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026—about twice as fast as the average for all occupations.

Nursing informatics specialists can expect a robust job outlook as well. A Burning Glass Technologies report shows that employers are having a tough time filling health informatics positions. Burning Glass estimates that demand for health informatics workers will grow at twice the overall employment rate.

Hospitals are the largest employer of RNs, including nurse informatics specialists. Additional nursing informatics employers include:

  • Insurance companies
  • Academic institutions
  • Corporate offices of healthcare systems
  • Healthcare device manufacturers
  • Technology vendors
  • Health information exchange organizations
  • Governments
  • Consulting firms

How Much Do Nurse Informatics Specialists Earn?

According to Nurse.org, nursing informatics is one of the highest-paying specializations.

The BLS reports that RNs earn a median annual salary of $70,000. Based on the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey, salaries for nurse informatics specialists are much higher:

  • Twenty-five percent of respondents reported earning $86,000 to $100,000 per year
  • Forty-six percent reported earning over $100,000 per year
  • Twenty percent reported salaries ranging from $101,000 to $115,000 per year

As the HIMSS survey shows, salaries can vary based on level of education and employer:

  • Over 50 percent of respondents with a postgraduate degree earn more than $100,000 a year
  • Over 50 percent of respondents working as consultants reported annual salaries ranging from $116,000 to $130,000
  • Nearly 25 percent of those working for vendors had salaries ranging from $101,000 to $115,000 per year
  • Nearly 30 percent of respondents working at hospitals reported salaries ranging from $86,000 to $100,000 per year

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, so will the field of nursing informatics. Higher salaries and strong demand make this career path an attractive option. RNs who choose this specialization also have the opportunity to impact healthcare outcomes on a larger scale.

Of course, job satisfaction is an important consideration in any career. Based on the HIMSS survey, 80 percent of nurse informaticists are highly satisfied with their career choice. For tech-savvy RNs interested in advancing their education and career, now is a great time to consider an MSN in Nursing Informatics.

Learn more about NSU's online MSN in Nursing Informatics program.


Sources:

ANA: Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice, 2nd Ed

TechEmergence: Where Healthcare's Big Data Actually Comes From

Healthcare Informatics: A Nursing Informatics Leader Parses the Challenges of EHR Optimization

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses

Burning Glass Technologies: Health Informatics 2014

Nurse.org: 15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers @Infographic

HIMSS: HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey Salary Guide

HIMSS: HIMSS 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey


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