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How to Become a Nursing Informatics Specialist

From smart IV pumps to electronic medical records and even barcoded medication, technology is now prevalent throughout nursing and the administration of health care. That is why registered nurses who have advanced skills in informatics are in high demand, according to O*NET Online, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Not only do nursing informatics specialists help evaluate and select appropriate technologies for use in health care settings, they also help customize functionality of devices and software and even devise training plans for other nurses and health care professionals. In fact, their role is now so important that they are considered an integral part of the health care delivery system, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HiMSS).

While many nurses already are gaining informatics and technological skills on the job, those with a master's degree in informatics have even more nuanced skills and are called nursing informatics specialists. Their advanced degree helps better enable them to combine their nursing science background with information science and computer science to improve health care delivery. A federal mandate that requires health care facilities to use electronic medical records (EMRs) is one of the factors driving demand for nursing informatics specialists.

Program Requirements/Prerequisites for Nursing Informatics

A Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) is necessary to work as a nursing informatics specialist. However, as a result of growth in the health care informatics spectrum, nurses no longer are limited to working just in health care facilities. They are also hired by non-traditional employers, such as health care device manufacturers, insurance companies or even software application vendors, according to the HiMSS.

Many of the graduate-level programs available in nursing informatics offer multiple entry points for degree completion. You may be able to pursue a master's degree in the field even if you only have an associate degree in nursing (ADN). While the typical point of entry is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you can also complete a certificate in nursing informatics at the graduate level if you already have a master's degree in another nursing discipline.

Depending on the school at which you enroll, you may be able to complete a degree either on a part-time or full-time basis, and may spend up to two years completing a degree when going full-time. Admission requirements will vary by school, but often applicants to graduate-level nursing programs need to have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, a recent score from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and sometimes even an undergraduate course in statistics. Upon graduation, students can attain certification from an organization like the American Nurses Credentialing Center or HIMSS, although it is not necessary for employment.

Necessary Skills and Qualities for Nursing Informatics Specialists

One of the reasons that nursing informatics specialists are so needed is that it is easier to train nurses on the technological aspects of health care rather than technical professionals on the ins-and-outs of the health care system, according to the University of South Florida, College of Medicine. Because of this, an interest in technology and its impact in health care delivery, real-time data analysis and research is a must among nursing informatics specialists.

And because nurses in informatics can serve in roles such as chief nursing or information officer, educator, policy developer or researcher, they must have a sense of leadership and be able to cohesively bring different groups of people or different perspectives and ideas together. Like other nurses, they need to be communicative and empathetic in their approach, but because they often must work with both upper-management professionals and everyday clinical nursing staff, their inter-professional skills need to be strong so they can relay needed information to all health care workers.

Working Environment for Nursing Informatics Specialists

Nursing informatics specialists no longer are limited to working just in health care facilities; they can also break out into fields that allow them to help develop the software and devices used within these facilities. This includes employment by technological or scientific companies. In fact, the job outlook for those in nursing informatics is fairly strong. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) reports that some 70,000 informatics nurses are needed to keep up with the demand.

For 25 years the role of the informatics nurse has been evolving, according to the Advance Healthcare Network, even though the adoption of some technologies, such as EMRs has not always been as fast. A significant need for more nursing informatics specialists is also reported by O*NET OnLine, which shows that job growth for the occupation is expected to be much faster than average from 2012 to 2022, at 22 percent. As the Advance Healthcare Network states: "If Florence Nightingale were alive today, she would be extremely pleased with nursing informatics tools, which uses science, nursing, statistics and evidence-based care, as a time saving intervention with the ultimate goal of helping patients in the best manner possible."


Sources:

  1. Direct Entry for Nurses, Vanderbilt University. http://staging.nursing.vanderbilt.edu/msn/bsnmsn.html
  2. Health Informatics Field Gives Nurses an Edge, AJC.com. http://www.ajc.com/news/business/health-informatics-field-gives-nurses/nSgZR/
  3. Nursing Informatics, American Medical Informatics Association. https://www.amia.org/programs/working-groups/nursing-informatics
  4. Nursing Informatics Specialist: Job Description and Salary Information, University of South Florida College of Medicine. http://www.usfhealthonline.com/resources/career/nursing-informatics-specialist-job-description-salary/#.VTaQFxd4hRk
  5. Nursing Informatics, Vanderbilt University. http://www.nursing.vanderbilt.edu/msn/ni.html
  6. Role of Nursing Informatics for Leadership, Advance Healthcare Network. http://nursing.advanceweb.com/Columns/Nursing-Informatics/Role-Nursing-Informatics-Leadership.aspx
  7. Summary Report for Informatics Nurse Specialists, O*NET OnLine, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1121.01?redir=15-1051.01#WagesEmployment
  8. What is a Nurse Informatics Specialist? Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. http://www.himss.org/ResourceLibrary/ResourceDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=11750

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