Becoming an Informatics Nurse: Requirements, Degree & Salary

Jan 19, 2022

Health care systems rely more and more on information technology. A career in nursing informatics combines healthcare and computer sciences with information technology. Informatics nurse specialists play key roles in areas like documentation and maintenance of health care records.

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What Is an Informatics Nurse Specialist?

Informatics nurse specialists are registered nurses who have completed graduate courses in nursing informatics. Their dual training enables them to design, manage, and apply technology to meet the needs of the healthcare industry. Often, they are found in administrative positions rather than or in addition to working directly with patients. An IT nurse is another name for an informatics nurse. The goal of nursing informatics is to create effective healthcare systems that can keep up with the needs of patients, drug manufacturers, doctors, and other members of the healthcare system.

Job Duties and Job Settings

Typically, nurses might have to work shifts that cover any part of the 24-hour day, but administrators often work a more traditional daytime schedule. However, they may still come in contact with people carrying infectious diseases and might still have to do a degree of lifting, standing, and stretching. Informatics nurses design, update and implement health systems and online databases in order to help the hospital or clinic in which they work to run smoothly. They are required to update and manage patient files, work schedules, and other pieces of extremely important information. For this reason, attention to detail is essential.

Informatics nurses generally work in hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes. Some work in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, while others specialize in psychiatric hospitals or substance abuse clinics. In all of these settings, informatics nurses will generally be working on computers, either in offices or in more open spaces within hospitals. When working in facilities that care directly for patients, it is often required for informatics nurses to wear face masks and sometimes medical gloves for some or all of their workdays in order to keep themselves and patients safe.

A nurse working in informatics
A nurse working in informatics

Skills Needed and Job Benefits

  • Strong technology and informatics skills
  • Strong understanding of nursing practices
  • Knowledge of specific hospital needs and systems
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Excellent attention to detail, as mistakes can be dangerous
  • Ability to focus under pressure
  • Compassion and respect for patients and colleagues
  • Patience and a systematic approach
  • Ability to solve problems creatively

Benefits of informatics nursing include less potential exposure to infectious diseases than other registered nurse jobs; higher pay than most registered nurses; relative job security because of the expertise required for the position; and the ability to reform healthcare systems to make them as efficient and beneficial as possible.

Nursing Informatics Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not list nursing informatics as a specific career. However, as of May 2019, it listed the median annual salary for all registered nurses at $73,300. The states with the highest pay for registered nurses were California ($113,240), Hawaii ($104,060), Washington, D.C. ($94,820), and Massachusetts ($93,160). Payscale.com does have an entry for informatics nurses: a median annual salary of approximately $79,000. The BLS job outlook for registered nurses is 7% growth from 2019-2029, which is faster than average. Nursing informatics jobs are likely to experience similar growth because of the increased need for accurate online systems for hospitals.

Nursing Informatics Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) plus a specialized master's or doctoral program in Information Technology
Licensure and Certification Must be licensed as an RN (registered nurse) by the state in which they practice.
Median Salary (2020) $73,300 per year (for registered nurses)* $79,000 (for informatics nurses)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (May, 2019), **PayScale.com (February 2020)

Steps to Become an Informatics Nurse

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is generally required for an informatics nurse specialist. The coursework takes four years to complete. Students who hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing and registered nurses (RN) with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can complete accelerated programs in 12-18 months. BSN courses focus on patient care, anatomy, chemistry, health assessment, psychology and pharmacology. Clinical experience in a supervised medical setting is an integral part of nursing programs.

Step 2: Obtain an RN License

Individuals who graduate from an approved nursing school with a BSN or an ADN are qualified to take a national examination to become a registered nurse, the NCLEX-RN. Additional licensing requirements may be applicable in some states.

Step 3: Acquire Additional Education

An informatics nursing degree can be earned through a specialized master's or doctoral program. Coursework trains nurses to adapt technology to facilitate healthcare goals and standards. A health informatics specialist degree is the major requirement that sets informatics nurses apart from other healthcare professionals. Nurses study database management, computer system analysis, and software design. They learn to use technology to support clinical decisions, maintain the quality and security standards of patient records, and manage government regulatory requirements.

Step 4: Consider Certification for Career Advancement

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers an informatics certification that signifies industry competency. To be eligible to take the ANCC certification test, RNs must hold a BSN and complete two years of nursing practice. Continuing education credits in informatics must be earned. Nurses must also hold a graduate degree in informatics or have completed at least 2,000 hours of practice as informatics nurses.

Professional Organizations

There are a number of organizations that you can join as a registered nurse working in informatics. The American Nurses Association, the National League for Nursing, the American Medical Informatics Association, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and the International Medical Informatics Association are all great options.

Related Jobs

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians $40,350
Medical and Health Services Managers $100,980
Registered Nurses $73,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019)

In summary, informatics nurse specialists need a bachelor's degree in nursing, a graduate degree in nursing informatics, and registered nursing licensing. Additionally, informatics certification is also available. According to 2020 data from PayScale.com, informatics nurses earned a median annual salary of approximately $79,000.

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