Nursing informatics is a combination of computer science, information science and nursing science designed to assist in the management and processing of nursing data, information and knowledge to support the practice of nursing and the delivery of nursing care.
The information systems department, in hospitals and other health care settings, needs nurses to work with their technical team to translate patient care needs into practical computer applications. The input by the nurse, or other unit representative, is crucial to making the programs efficient and user friendly to the employees using the computers for retrieval of information, charting, ordering and so on. The nurse is the “translator” between the everyday needs of the unit staff and the technical team that actually develops or modifies the programs.
Many hospitals hire nurses into their information systems departments. Nurses who have been on a specific unit for some time, and who have worked with the computers on their units and are comfortable with the programs and troubleshooting, are most likely to be considered for these positions. Job titles vary depending on the institution, but can include Clinical Systems Analyst, Business Systems Analyst, Applications Analyst, or Applications Specialist. Job descriptions can include implementing policies and procedures for new programs, scenario testing, process changes, and the teaching of new applications.
The field of Informatics gained momentum in the ’70s with the growth of the computer industry and it’s association with health care. Nursing Informatics has been a sub-specialty since approximately the early ’80s and is now gaining widespread popularity as hospitals struggle to keep up to date with medical information technology.
Right now, there are many levels on which nurses can enter the field of informatics. Most job descriptions list the requirement of a Bachelor’s degree, but the focus is on skill more than degree status. According to people in the field, since the demand for individuals with knowledge in informatics is high, employers are willing to hire someone without an advanced degree if they show the proficiency that corresponds to their needs, with the possibility of requiring further education as the job demands increase. It is a good possibility also, that in years to come as the job market gets tighter, the educational requirement will most likely be a Master’s in informatics.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers Certification in Nursing Informatics. The requirements for certification are given as “a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing; have practiced as a licensed RN for a minimum of 2 years; have practiced at least 2,000 hours in the field of informatics nursing within the past 5 years, or have completed at least 12 semester hours of credits in informatics in a graduate program in nursing and have practiced a minimum of 1,000 hours within the past 5 years; have 20 contact hours of continuing education in specialty in the past 2 years.”
Like many specialties, salaries range greatly depending on the hiring company, geographic location, the educational background and experience of the candidate, and whether the position is temporary or permanent. The average range seems to be between $30,000-$60,000/year.
Source: Pennsylvania State Nurses Association