Nursing Informatics Or Clinical Informatics – What’s The Difference?

One topic that seems to come up often is understanding the difference between clinical informatics and nursing informatics. What’s the difference between the two?

Short answer: Nursing informatics jobs SPECIFICALLY require a nursing degree, while clinical informatics jobs may or may not. Thus, you don’t have to be a registered nurse to get a job as a clinical informatics analyst!

From my personal experience, the jobs in both fields are almost similar with the only difference, as mentioned before is that a nursing informatics person has a nursing degree, whereas a clinical informatics person can have a either a nursing degree or any other degree, which may not just be in the healthcare field.

The key to this conundrum is understanding the definition of “informatics” and the University of California at Irvine does a good job defining it as “the interdisciplinary study of the design, application, use and impact of information technology and the relationship between the technology and its use in real-world settings”

Also, check out my clinical informatics vs nursing informatics nurse post.

Clinical Informatics Vs. Nursing Informatics

Using this definition, we can specifically say that nursing informatics integrates nursing science in the study/application of technology, while clinical informatics is a broader term that integrates medical science, including nursing science, and sometimes even other fields.

Therefore, nursing informatics jobs might be specifically geared towards somebody who has a nursing clinical experience, while clinical informatics jobs could be performed by anybody in the healthcare field, such as a doctor, a pharmacist, a lab person, a radiology tech, a nurse, rehab therapists, etc.

Also, by defining the job title as clinical analyst, the employer may be looking to hire somebody who could be working in different departments of the hospital, not just nursing.

Nursing Informatics as part of Clinical Informatics
Clinical Analyst Vs. Nursing Informatics

And what does a clinical analyst do?

Essentially, they could work analyzing, configuring, training, testing, or troublueshooting any application within the hospital.

A clinical analyst could, for example, be hired to configure the radiology application of a hospital or vendor; or it could well be the ambulatory application used at Doctor’s offices; or they could be hired to train all the applications in the hospital; they could even be the project manager in the clinical informatics department; or they could be out setting up applications used in doctors’ offices.

The number of roles out there are plentyful.

A person in a nursing informatics position could be doing the same; the only difference might be that hospitals and vendors like to hire registered nurses to specifically work with applications that interact with nurses, but that doesn’t mean they cannot get a job configuring other applications that are not directly involved with nurses, such as a lab application or a patient registration application.

It is obvious that employers prefer to hire people with the relevant experience for a particular position.

As an example, it would be easier for a lab person to understand the workflow of a lab than a registered nurse who has never worked inside a lab.

What’s interesting to note though is that many jobs get advertised with the title of clinical analyst, and even clinical nursing analyst, and it is better to look for those titles when searching for a job, than just to simply look for ‘nursing informatics’.

Searching For Jobs

I have a nursing degree and I’m yet to hold a job with the word title of ‘nursing informatics’ or nursing informaticist.

Most of my job roles have been as clinical analyst, application analyst, application consultant, and some more.

My point is that many hospitals out there might actually have a clinical informatics department and when they list their jobs, they typically list them as clinical analyst jobs, but within those jobs, there could be jobs specifically requiring a nursing license, and the job title might be clinical analyst, instead of nursing analyst or nursing informaticist.

Of course, many hospitals do have nursing informatics departments, and within that department you’ll find specific nursing informatics jobs such as a nursing informatics trainer, or nursing analyst, or nursing application analyst, etc.

Therefore, it is essential to bear in mind is that when searching for jobs, you may find more jobs listed under clinical analyst, than under nursing informatics.

What Pays More?

After all these explanations, it goes without saying that the next question will be: so what pays more, nursing informatics or clinical informatics?

This is certainly difficult to determine. You could be a pharmacist with the title of clinical analyst and because of your pharmacy experience, your salary could easily be higher than somebody in a nursing informatics role.

However, you could be a nursing informatics person experienced configuring different applications, and because of your ‘diverse experience’ your salary might be higher.

There are simply too many factors which determine salary, but the good news is that there are many roles out in the field to choose from.

Chris (25 Posts)

Chris Smith works as a clinical analyst consultant with 9 years of experience working in the nursing informatics field. He started this blog to help others learn more about nursing informatics because he got tired of reading a lot of misinformation about this field on the web. You can connect with Chris on Google+

21 Responses to Nursing Informatics Or Clinical Informatics – What’s The Difference?

  • Maria says:

    Awesome explanation!

  • Shena says:

    I am a Registered Nurse of 18 years presently seeking a BSIT at University of Phoenix online. I have a year to go. I have a few questions on the matter. After receiving BSIT, would it even be practical to persue the MSN in Nurse informatic? My next question is if it is not practical, is it safe to assume that I could seek positions as clinical analyst/nurse informatics with a BSIT and background in Nursing? Last, is this profession propular in the state of Illinois, particularly in Chicago?


    • admin says:

      Nursing informatics doesn’t require anything else than a nursing degree. You can enter the field without a master’s degree or without any other type of certificate or degree.

      I always say…get experience in the field first. Participate as a superuser. Volunteer to help other nurses when they have problems with online documentation. Participate in user meetings with your informatics department. This is the type of experience that will get you a job. I’ll even dare and say that if have this experience and you don’t have a master’s, you’re better off than having a master’s and not having this experience. because employers always prefer candidates with experience.

      If you already have experience in the field and you want to move up or get a management position, then, indeed, get a master’s degree. If you don’t have the experience, but you have the time and money, by all means get a master’s as it does give you a chance to interview for jobs, but you can do that without a master’s too.

      Getting a master’s with no experience in the field, is the most expensive way to enter the field. I just want to make it very clear that many join this field without spending money on a master’s degree.

      You can always apply for analyst positions just with your nursing experience and degree.

      And yes, the profession is popular in any location where you find a hospital with an EMR, and Chicago is no exception.

  • Delia says:

    I have been an LPN for 15 years and recently begun taking courses online towards a degree in Computer information Systems with a major in Healthcare Information System. Although I do not have an RN will following this path still pay off in the end or am I going in the wrong direction? I do not have an associates so the CIS bachelor will be my first degree and I am wondering if just being an LPN will lock me out of the medical aspect of informatics.

    • admin says:

      I have met plenty of LPN’s working in informatics with an LPN license and they are working just fine in this field.

      As an LPN, what really matters is your clinical experience. I wouldn’t be worried about not having an RN after your name. However, right now the field is very competitive, and that’s why I tell people to get involved with informatics as soon as they can because that’s the type of experience that gives you a big boost when applying for informatics jobs, and if anything, this is what might qualify you better for a job.

      I know that when we have opened positions for entry level candidates, we don’t really say, only RN’s with BSN’s need apply. However, HR might stick a generic requirements section that only mentions RN’s, but truly, when we review candidates, we are looking at, 1, do they have clinical experience, 2, do they have any previous informatics experience, 3, what else on their resume sells their relevant skills to the job?

      Thus, having the LPN is not going to lock you out of a job. By the way, I had sent you a longer email, but looks like you typed in the wrong email address. 🙂

  • Delia says:

    I sent in the comment on 4/24. I resent you the correct email address. I guess I was nervous and it sure does look bad as a CIS major that is not able to put in her email correctly lol Any information you may help would be greatly appreciated. I am terrified in a way of taking such a different route. Every one who hears I am in school automatically asks are you getting your RN? When I say no I am a CIS major they look at me like I am nuts and it puts the fear and doubt in of am I making a mistake? I enjoy both computers and nursing so this just seemed natural for me but it such an unknown path.

    • admin says:

      I did send a test email, and it seemed that it went through. As far as people questioning you, when I went back for my CS, people did the same thing to me. The question was, why not go for your master’s in nursing? Guaranteed job and money, and yes, that seemed the logical thing to do, but I didn’t want to get a master’s in nursing. And once I got my CS degree, then the question was, how are you going to find a job since you have no experience in the IT field and everybody is getting laid off? At the time these people did make me doubt my decision, but I figured, if I don’t get a job, I still have a nursing job. Well, I did find a job, and everything went better than expected. Of course, after the fact, people were like, “oh, you’re so lucky to have both degrees.” Really? My advice to you, ignore the naysayers and just concentrate on your degree, and obviously, once you graduate, apply for jobs. You will see you made the right decision.

  • Eduardo says:

    I want to volunteer in Information Systems at local hospital. Will this volunteer help me enter the field of informatics?

    • admin says:

      Yes, if the hospital is allowing you to volunteer there, this is excellent experience to have to get yourself a job in informatics later on. Great to have on your resume and it also great to discuss during interviews.

  • Angela Ghee says:

    I am a lpn in a VA Medical Center… presently in an RN program, distance education, and wondering if I should get an IT degree. Ten years ago I received an IT Fundamental Certificate from a community college. I have always been interested in IT Security. Help!!! which should I do ?

    • admin says:

      I typically tell people to get involved with their EMR’s and informatics departments at their hospitals. Getting an IT degree is the longest and most expensive route to go. Obviously, if you want to do IT security, then an IT degree is necessary, possibly. But if informatics is your goal, then an additional IT degree might not be needed. I have also emailed you for a more detailed response.

  • Ben says:

    Thank you for making this web site. I really appreciate the structure and flow of the information, as well as the detailed responses. I am currently a floor nurse on a telemetry unit. I spent 6 years in the Coast Guard as an electronics technician, and got out to obtain my BSN. I have decided that the nursing informatics field is more my style, and have been volunteering with the informatics department. I am currently a super-user for the Mckesson CPOE system, and will be assisting with the roll out of the system hospital-wide in the next few months. I am planning for the long term, and have applied to obtain my Masters in Nursing Informatics, even though I realize it isn’t necessarily beneficial for entry level positions. However, I am also interested in building the actual applications and managing databases. I was wondering if obtaining a certificate in C++, Java, or SQL would benefit me in opening my employment options any wider. Perhaps I should go on for a CS degree? I would appreciate your thoughts and advice. Thank you. Please feel free to email me.

  • AMY says:

    Thank you for the information. It was a good start to answering my questions. I am an ASN-RN with 3.5 years experience. All but the initial 9 months (of which was spent in Neuro-Surgical ICU) of my experience has been in the ER. I also have a BS degree in Biology. I am becoming more and more interested in an area of nursing dealing with computers. I have always been very computer literate and have even thought of persuing a type of IT degree but have been lacking in the area of direction or initiation. A Clinical Analyst position has come open at my current employer and the only Qualifications listed are “College graduate, critical thinking skills excellent communications skills” with “Nursing Background” listed in the Experience section. Even though I don’t have any employment or education experience with computers beyond what is expected in use to perform my job and obtain my degrees, do you still think its worth a shot to put in an application? Or should I try and get more experience/education?

    • admin says:

      If the qualifications don’t mention any other computer requirement, I would definitely put in my application for the job. Nonetheless, since you say you are very computer literate—What do you mean by that? Because you see, you can put that on your resume. Assuming you apply for the job at your hospital and you don’t get it, indeed, get yourself involved in the informatics department. Volunteer to help out with implementations, testing, training, etc, because this is what you can put on your resume and what gives you an advantage when applying for jobs.

  • nursingsucks says:

    Don’t be a nurse. Yeah, they make pretty good money and they are recession-proof.

    If you’re a man, you’re better off in nursing because we generally don’t put up with shit as much as women do. Fight back.

  • Princess says:

    I have a BSN in nursing and I would like to get my Masters in Nursing Informatics. I would like to know if finding a job with an MSN in Nursing Informatics is as easy as finding a job with an NP degree. Thank you!

  • Arnold says:

    Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing your expertise here. You truly give useful and reliable information. I am a practicing PT for over 10 years, but seriously considering getting into health IT. I plan to get my MS in Health Informatics. I’m wondering if I am a little too late to join this field. Is the demand for health informatics professionals already diminishing? Any suggestions on specific MS programs and schools out there? Your recommendations and honest opinion are highly appreciated. Thanks again.

    • admin says:

      Not at all. The demand is there and if anything, it will continue to grow. As far as programs, find the cheapest one. None of them will fully prepare you to be in the field since most of them are just theory.

  • Yinka says:

    Your blog is very informative. I have read the questions and comments over the years. I want to get more of your opinion on nursing informatics. I have been a BSN-RN for 7 years and I am looking to advance my degree. I am thinking of doing a masters in Nursing informatics but I have no experience in the informatics field. I like working with computer software but I only have experience in charting and reviewing EMR in software such as meditech. I did bedside nursing for a few years and currently work in acute/post acute case management. Do you think getting a masters is an expensive, long route to get into the informatics field? And do you by any chance know what the average salary for nursing/clinical informatics is now especially in the state of Texas?

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