More than ever before, nursing relies on the exchange and integration of both historical and real-time data to drive quality patient care in a timely fashion. The rise in electronic medical records (EMRs) and other technologies has created an abundance of raw data that requires constant management and synthesis to produce useful information. Nursing informatics is the growing career field responsible for overseeing this process and represents an opportunity for nurses who possess strong analytical and technical skills.
What Is Nursing Informatics?
An American Nurses Association definition of nursing informatics calls it 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 work involves managing data found in a variety of clinical information systems, such as:
- EMRs (Electronic Medical Records)
- Computerized provider order entry (CPOE)
- Remote monitoring and diagnostic software
- Decision support systems
- Telemedicine applications
Why Is Informatics Important in Nursing?
Nursing informatics is a valuable tool for guiding clinical decision-making, develop community health initiatives, coordinate staffing and improve employee and patient safety. Enabling these outcomes are the reams of data that the healthcare industry routinely collects. For example, patient data often includes name, age, gender, vitals and diagnoses, at a minimum. Other examples of tracked data include staffing hours, procedural workflows and communications.
Collected data in a system, like an EMR, is not always particularly actionable in this raw form. However, accumulating and evaluating data over a period of time, as well as aggregating and analyzing it, provides information and knowledge that can improve virtually every aspect of healthcare. Such analysis helps establish baseline vitals, which prompt earlier interventions when deviations in patient status occur. It also supplements reporting and research efforts so that facilities can sooner identify and correct key trends, such as the prevalence of hospital-acquired infections or positive correlations between patient-nurse ratios and outcomes.
Nurses and healthcare providers have the tools necessary to make well-informed care decisions, and patient outcomes are likely to improve. Informatics also assists healthcare facilities in creating employee and patient teaching tools as well as streamlining processes, such as charting and documentation.
How Do You Become a Nursing Informatics Specialist?
Informatics nursing is emerging as an excellent opportunity for nurses who have robust critical-thinking and problem-solving skills along with an interest in technology. Salaries are competitive, averaging $85K per year, according to PayScale (September 2020). Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a worthwhile consideration for nursing professionals interested in transitioning into such a role. It generally requires meeting the following criteria:
- Hold an active RN license.
- Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher degree, which candidates can meet by graduating from an RN to BSN program.
- Practice two full-time years, or equivalent, as an RN.
- Complete 30 hours of informatics nursing continuing education within the last three years.
- Meet one of these practice hour requirements:
- Practice in an informatics nursing role for at least 2,000 hours within the last three years, OR
- Practice in an informatics nursing role for at least 1,000 hours within the last three years and complete 12 semester hours of informatics courses as part of a graduate-level program, OR
- Complete an informatics nursing graduate program that includes 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum.
Nurses who meet the requirements can take the ANCC Informatics Nursing board certification exam. Passing the exam results in the Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) credential, which is valid for five years.
As technology evolves, the use of informatics in nursing is likely to expand further in scope as well. For nurses with an aptitude for clinical information systems and data analysis, pursuing an informatics nursing certification may be a stepping-stone to advancing in this promising specialty.
Learn more about UHV's online RN to BSN program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.